Nick Clegg promised today to give every child "the fair start in life they deserve" by investing an extra £2.5 billion a year in schools in England.
The Liberal Democrat leader said his party's plans for a "pupil premium" would raise the money spent on the one million children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to private school levels.
It forms the centrepiece of the party's education offering and could be used by headteachers to cut class sizes, offer one-to-one tuition, or provide after-school and holiday activities.
The cash could amount to £2,500 extra for every child entitled to free school meals.
The Liberal Democrats claim that, if the money was used solely to cut class sizes, an average primary school could see classes of 20 and this could fall to 16 for an average secondary school class.
They say current methods for distributing funding to help poorer children are "confusing and inconsistent" and can often miss out many deprived pupils. The pupil premium would follow children as and when they moved schools.
Mr Clegg said: "Labour's bright promise of a fair society has faded away.
"Our big task now is giving people back their hope that things can be different, and better, and that the fair society we have hoped for for so long can become a reality.
"If you want to build that fair society, I believe education is everything. That is why the biggest financial commitment in our manifesto is to our schools."
Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had identified £15 billion of savings in the manifesto, of which £5 billion would be redirected to alternate spending.
He added: "It is a measure of my personal commitment and passion for education that half of that money will go into our schools.
"Our plans will raise the money spent on the million children from the poorest backgrounds to private school levels.
"Headteachers will be able to use that money on a whole range of measures to help all pupils and all schools.
"Cutting class sizes, providing more one-to-one tuition and catch-up classes - whatever suits their school and their pupils' needs best - with a simple, but profound ambition: to make sure every child gets the fair start in life they deserve."Reuse content