Tories May Call for Vocational Education to Start a Year Earlier; SCHOOLS: Dutch Example of 13-Year-Olds Learning Skills Such as Plastering and Wiring Rooms Impresses Opposition Spokesman

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YOUNGSTERS as young as 13 could be allowed to learn skills such as plastering at school under a future Tory Government, shadow education secretary Damian Green indicated yesterday.

He said he had been impressed by the fact that in Holland, where vocational education begins a year earlier than in England, truancy levels are lower and the idea was a "possibility" he was considering.

In his first major policy speech since becoming the Conservatives' main education spokesman, due to be delivered at a conference on Friday, Mr Green will set out his plans to "give teachers back their pride".

In an address to union and local government leaders at the North of England Education Conference in Huddersfield, Mr Green will propose a Royal College of Teaching and a career structure modelled on the medical professions.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris is expected to tell the conference that more must be done to raise achievement among "poor kids and working class kids".

Mr Green said her class rhetoric was "old-fashioned" but agreed that English education had been "bedevilled" by a long trail of under-achievers since World War II.

He recently made a trip to the Netherlands as part of a mission to learn from other European education systems.

"I don't actually think it's helpful to talk in terms of class warfare, I think that's rather an old-fashioned approach. …