Tuition pledge for struggling primary pupils

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Every child who falls behind in primary school will be guaranteed personal catch-up tuition, Gordon Brown announced today.

The guarantee is to ensure that pupils struggling with literacy and numeracy are not left behind, he told delegates at Labour's conference in Manchester.

Local authorities will be responsible for providing one-to-one tuition to all eligible pupils.

Schools will use existing systems for monitoring whether pupils are lagging behind and can then apply to their local authority for the support.

The enforceable entitlement to personal tuition will begin in September 2010.

At present a Government pilot is offering one-to-one tuition to eligible pupils in some schools, but this is not a guaranteed right.

Mr Brown told the conference this afternoon he would guarantee parents "two fundamental rights".

He said: "Because every child should leave primary school able to read, write and count, any child who falls behind will not be left behind - but will now have a new guaranteed right to personal catch-up tuition.

"And because all parents should see their children taught in schools which achieve good results at GCSE, our pledge today is that any parents whose local state school falls below the expected standard will have the right to see that school transformed under wholly new leadership, or closed and new school places provided."

The prime minister also vowed to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds free broadband access.

A £300 million internet programme will pay for broadband connections and computers for more than a million schoolchildren who do not have access to the web at home.

It is part of the Government's ambition to see Britain leading the world with more British citizens able to access the internet than any other major economy, Mr Brown said.

Ministers hope the initiative will help to close the achievement gap between those from rich and poor backgrounds.

Schools minister Jim Knight said around 35% of families have no internet access.

Mr Brown told the conference: "We want to enable all families to use the internet to link back to their children's school - and so (schools minister) Jim Knight is announcing that we will fund over a million extra families to get online."

Mr Knight said: "It is now clear that pupils without internet access are at a disadvantage to their peers. Home access is increasingly becoming an essential part of a good education and having a computer with internet access should be seen as equally essential as having a school bag, a uniform or a pen and paper."

Mr Brown also said the Government would offer free part-time nursery care for two-year-olds.

Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, congratulated the Government on the free internet access initiative.

She said: "Every youngster should have an equal start in life, and that includes equal access to the internet.

"If Web 2.0 is a fundamental part of lives then it must be made available to all. Students who rely on computers cannot be expected to go to the library or a friend's house for access.

"However, the reason why some families do not have a computer is because of the running costs that incur beyond the initial purchase. Enough financial provision must be given to ensure that they can maintain the upkeep and general running costs that computers involve."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "Access to IT is as fundamental to a child's learning as pens, pencils and paper. Free computers and internet access for the poorest families will provide access to a worldwide learning and communication resource, ensuring no child is left behind."

She added: "Access to one-to-one tuition for all primary aged children falling behind will help to ensure that all children can make the best of their educational opportunities and provide a sound grounding for transition to secondary school."