Letter: Labour's new education policy

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his article "Labour's big bad idea" (22 June), my friend and colleague Roy Hattersley has gone way over the top when he claims that Labour, in its new policy statement, Diversity and Excellence, has abandoned the comprehensive principle. As a fellow former shadow education spokesman, and a parent, I support the comprehensive principle just as strongly as he does.

But in two key respects, the world has changed since the Seventies. First, whether we like it or not, there are now more than a thousand grant maintained schools. Secondly, with the introduction of local management, 85 per cent of the schools' aggregated budget is delegated to the individual school, thus giving significant autonomy. So the problem for the Labour Party is how to ensure fair, non-selective and accountable schooling without causing major disruption.

By insisting on equitable funding between schools and on non-selective entry, Diversity and Excellence removes the two major arguments against grant maintained schools. It also makes it far less likely that parents at existing schools will vote for grant maintained status. At the same time, these schools will be made accountable to the local community because they will have to agree their admissions systems with LEAs.

In my view, Labour's proposals provide a sensible and fair organisational framework within which schools will be able to get on with providing high standards for all pupils. It is significant that local educational authorities are to be given a new role in promoting standards. Good educational attainment is the vital educational issue - and I would prefer to see Roy Hattersley putting his great authority and experience into campaigning for his party on quality education for all.

Yours etc,

Giles Radice

MP for Durham North (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

26 June

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