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Labour plans to introduce A-level charges

January 24, 2005 7:04 PM

Cambridge PPC David Howarth has denounced possible plans to extend tuition fees to sixth formers, and has asked Anne Campbell MP to do the same.

Patrick Ainley made the claims in The Guardian on 18 January: "[Education Secretary Charles Clarke] made it clear to the Association of Colleges' annual conference in November that higher course fees will also be expected from Further Education students above level two. Fees for school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and academic centres in Further Education are being mooted for Labour's third term… the argument is already being put in some quarters that since A-levels can give higher lifetime wages, they should be paid for like degrees."

In a letter to Anne Campbell, Howarth suggested the proposals contradict Labour's pledge to increase student numbers: "Its effects on access to higher education alone would be devastating." The plans are an extension of Labour's flawed policy on tuition and top-up fees, which Anne Campbell has supported and voted for. "The materialistic logic that the government used to justify university tuition fees, that degrees increase earning power, is now being taken to its obvious conclusion," explained Howarth, asking of the MP, "would you now reconsider your position on tuition fees for higher education?"

Secondary education in Cambridge is already under pressure. Truancy in the county's secondary schools has increased by almost 50% since 1997, reflecting the national picture of decreasing attendance since Labour came to power. Class sizes in Cambridgeshire have risen over the same period, while pupil expenditure has fallen to just over £3,100 for the next financial year.

The Liberal Democrats would abolish all tuition and top-up fees, financing the scheme from a new 50% tax on income over £100,000. They would reduce testing in schools and red tape for teachers, so they can get on with teaching and the pupils can get on with learning. The party also proposes reforming education for those over 14, allowing them to pursue a mix of vocational and academic courses. They have already introduced this in Scotland.

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