Action on Education; Labour Party Conference: A Pounds 2bn Rescue Package to Repair Our Crum Bling Schools; New 5yr Targets for Schools ..80% Literacy, 75% Numeracy; Every School in Britain Will Have Computer by Year 2002

Article excerpt

Tony Blair will today unveil a pounds 2billion package to rebuild Britain's crumbling classrooms.

The huge cash injection - pounds 700million more than originally planned - is at the heart of an ambitious three-point drive to improve education.

The PM will also announce that every one of the country's 33,000 schools will have the latest computers within five years.

Private firms have been persuaded to come up with an investment plan to help every child to learn keyboard skills.

And the Premier, who made "education, education, education" his top priority in the election campaign, is to urge schools to beat already tough targets for reading and writing standards.

The triple move underlines his commitment to make education his Government's passion and give Britain the world's best-trained workforce.

In the first party conference speech by a Labour Prime Minister for 19 years, Mr Blair will vow to put the Great back into Britain.

He will say in Brighton that a "quiet revolution" is underway to modernise the UK.

Mr Blair will stress that he wants to head the most radical, reforming Government ever.

"We will never be the biggest country, we may never be the mightiest, but we can be the best," he will say.

"The British people are creative, compassionate and outward-looking and these qualities are what are required to make Britain an example to the world."

The extra pounds 700million to repair leaking school roofs, smarten up peeling classroom paint and end the scandal of outdoor toilets will delight parents.

The full pounds 2billion programme will more than halve an estimated pounds 3.5billion maintenance bill left by the Tories.

The work will be done within five years with new money raised from joint private-public deals.

Firms came up with more than was needed for an initial pounds 1.3billion worth of work.

Another pounds 1billion is being pumped into education to train more teachers and class sizes for the under-sevens are to be cut.

Under the computer deal with software bosses such as Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, the most modern computers will be installed by 2002.

A special charity called UK Net Year will be set up to oversee the scheme.

All computer networks will be linked to the global Internet system after BT agreed to wire up buildings free. British pupils will be among the most skilled in the world in a big boost for the economy. Mr Blair will tell conference: "Every one of the 33,000 schools in Britain will have modern computers.

"The educational programmes to go on them, the teachers skilled to teach on them, the pupils skilled to use them, wired up to the Internet for free and every university, college and library wired up with them."

Mr Blair will say he wants to do better than Education Secretary David Blunkett's aim of 75 per cent of 11-year-olds being able to count properly and 80 per cent reading well. …