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Shadow Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, visiting Wirral County Grammar School for Girls, Bebington, today with Labour by-election candidate Ben Champman, pledged that nothing would divert a Labour government in its drive for higher standards in Britain's schools.

Mr Blunkett said: "Labour puts standards in our schools at the very top of our education agenda - and nothing will divert us from that drive: 6,987 primary school children in Wirral were in clases over 30 - and the figure increased by 15 per cent from 1995 to 1996.

"Labour will ensure that the 2,342 Wirral pupils aged five, six and seven affected will be in classes of 30 or under as a result of Labour's key pledge to switch money from phasing out the assisted places scheme.

"I commend Wirral for ensuring 60 per cent of all three- and four-year-olds have nursery places. This is higher than the national average and shows that while the Tories waste money on issuing promissory notes, Labour on the ground has been delivering the goods.

"A Labour government will ensure that all our children master the basics, with no child leaving primary school unable to read and write to the expected level for their age, as four in 10 do at present.

"We will also tackle bureaucracy and waste wherever it exists. I am pleased to see that Wirral spends only £30 per pupil on central education administration compared to £125 in Tory Westminster. Labour will ensure that councils across the country spend less on central administration and more on schools.

"We will develop the talents of every child in our schools, ensuring that each child is able to succeed and meet their full potential. We want to enhance parental choice and encourage every school to play to their strengths, developing specialisms and new partnerships with other schools.

"The Tories have served notice that they intend to tell lies about Labour's position on grammar schools. I intend to nail those lies today. We will not wage war on grammar schools. We will not close any successful school.

"Whether or not the 11+ stays as the admissions policy in Wirral's grammar schools will be entirely a matter for local parents. A ballot will not even be on the agenda unless local parents demand it.

"So, if a ballot is to be held, parents will initiate it - not the council, the government or anybody else. If a vote is taken, their views will decide the matter.

"If parents want no change, there will be no change. Labour is interested in levelling up, not levelling down. That is where we stand. Any attempt by our opponents to claim otherwise will be a deliberate deception.

"I am glad that the voters in Wirral South see through the Tory lies and their apalling record on education. Sixty per cent told Mori that they were dissatisfied with the Government's record on education.

"When the Tories finally decide to have a by-election here, I am confident that Ben Chapman's election will be followed soon after by a national election in which voters reject Tory education failure in favour of Labour's pledge of higher standards for all."

SOURCE The Labour Party

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