MY PASSION TO BOOST SCHOOLS; NEWS ANALYSIS ON A PLEDGE TO CHILDREN; Classroom Crusade Is at the Top of Our List Says Blair

Article excerpt

Tony Blair yesterday promised to lead a crusade to drive up standards in Britain's schools.

"This is my passion," he said as he announced that a Labour government's first action would be to bring in a sweeping package of education reforms which would:

GUARANTEE nursery places for all four-year-olds.

ESTABLISH minimum homework requirements and

FUND "homework centres" through the lottery for kids who do not have the time and space to study at home.

And there's much more.

Mr Blair, who has put education top of Labour's election campaign, declared: "If we want to get this right, it has to be driven through from the top, no holds barred. This is my passion."

Youngsters' literacy standards will be tested when they start school, class sizes will be cut and reading and writing levels will be boosted.

Teaching standards and teacher-parent contact will also be improved.

"These things can be done, provided the will's there to do them," Mr Blair said.

Many Labour MPs had previously expected that Mr Blair's first Parliamentary Bill would bring in Scottish and Welsh devolution.

Yesterday's announcement means his school reforms could start within months of his arrival in Downing Street.

Interviewed by Sir David Frost on BBC1, the Labour leader said education was the "absolute key to everything."

He promised to tackle education reform with the same vigour that the Thatcher Government brought in union laws in the 1980s.

"Unless we get our education system right, we will not be prepared for the economic world out there," said Mr Blair. "And we'll never create the type of just society we want to see."

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers chief Nigel de Gruchy approved of Mr Blair's plans in principle - but called for more cash. …