LONDON The Liberal Democrats said on Monday they would restrict tax credits to only the poorest families to help pay for plans to spend an extra 6.6 billion pounds on education.
Party Leader Nick Clegg said limiting the means-tested tax credits to the least-well off would save more than 3 billion pounds a year.
Clegg wants to pay for a range of education policies to improve social mobility in Britain.
"It's downright wrong that we live in a country where all the evidence shows that a child who is bright but poor will be overtaken by the age of six or seven by a less bright but wealthy child at school," he said.
His party would spend 2.4 billion pounds a year to give 20 hours of free childcare to every child over 18 months, and a further 500 million pounds on halving infant class sizes to 15.
A "pupil premium," where state schools would get extra money for admitting the worst-off pupils, would cost an additional 2.5 billion.
The LibDems would also scrap fees for mature students over 25 studying for A-levels and equivalent qualifications.
Other government policies on the LibDem chopping block to pay for the plans include a compulsory rise in the school leaving age to 18, and consolidating a number of education quangos into a single authority, together to save 500 million pounds a year.
Additional cuts in government spending, including scrapping the 250-pound Child Trust Fund payment made to each newborn baby and abandoning a billion pounds worth of motorway widening schemes would make up the rest of the funding required.
The plans will be debated at the LibDem spring conference in Harrogate next month. The party, which last had a taste of power in the late 1970s during the ill-fated "Lib-Lab pact," remains third in opinion polls but could hold the balance of power should the next election result in a hung parliament.
(Reporting by Tim Castle)