Clarke vows education 'crusade'

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A "crusade" to improve educational opportunities for all was promised today by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

A "crusade" to improve educational opportunities for all was promised today by Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

Urging Labour conference delegates to fight for a third term of government, Mr Clarke vowed to create a "seamless system of high quality, flexible and affordable childcare for under-fives".

By the end of the next Parliament, he said, primary schools will offer education and childcare from 8am to 6pm all year round.

This would give children a "genuinely exciting choice of learning, sports and cultural activity and families can make the best choice to balance their home and working lives".

Mr Clarke also looked ahead to the Tomlinson review of the 14 to 19 curriculum which will be published in the next few weeks.

He heralded reform in the next Parliament to produce a curriculum that "captures their enthusiasm, prepares all of them for the world of work and really stretches the most able whatever their talents".

The current "alphabet soup" of qualifications, which had only served to "confuse and mislead," must also be reformed.

Mr Clarke said: "I offer a crusade to fit learning and training to the needs of every 14-19 year old.

"I offer a crusade to create the highest skilled workforce in the world with lifelong learning for all."

He told the Prime Minister, who was sitting alongside: "Tony, I believe with all my heart that the crusade for genuine educational opportunity throughout life is an inspiring crusade for our party and our country.

"It is a crusade worth fighting for. It is a crusade worth working for. It is a crusade worth voting for."

After another round of record A-level results, Mr Clarke rejected the "gloomy pessimism of conservatives of all political persuasions" who maintained that "rising results mean lower standards".

He said: "We need to applaud that rather than diminish it."

Looking ahead to a third term, Mr Clarke said: "We have to help working parents join up the education and care the Government provides with the childcare they need to balance their home and working lives.

"I believe that our ambition for universal childcare is as bold and ambitious as was the determination to create the NHS 55 years ago.

"High quality, flexible and affordable childcare for hard working families. That is why we need another term."

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