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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK


Action zone money for 'worst' schools

The government wants all pupils to have the chance to excel

Ministers are planning to pump more than £62m into up to 50 of England's worst-performing inner-city secondary schools.

The Department for Education says each school will get £250,000 annually for up to five years as they become the centre of new, smaller Education Action Zones.

It is part of the Excellence in Cities initiative, announced on 22 March - a £350m package designed to "modernise the comprehensive principle", which the education secretary said would address the particular problems facing inner-city schools.

It targets resources at 445 schools in inner London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Rotherham, with the aim of ensuring that social deprivation does not stop educational achievement.

Curriculum freedom

Previous Education Action Zones - there are 25 of them - have involved bids from consortia to run, typically, about 20 schools with the involvement of businesses and their local communities. They are supposed to come up with innovative ways to raise educational standards.

This has not been entirely straightforward - with some schools wary of the motives of their business partners, and businesses in some areas complaining of 'initiative fatigue' and not wanting to get involved.

Private partnerships
The Excellence in Cities proposals said such large zones might not be suitable for inner-city problem areas, and proposed a new, smaller model with the focus on a single secondary school and the primary schools which send pupils to it.

Apart from getting extra money, zones can drop the National Curriculum and vary the national regulations on teachers' pay and conditions.

There are likely to be two of the new small zones in each of the 25 local authorities affected by the proposals.

In another move, officials are said to have accepted that schools have been finding it hard to raise the £100,000 in sponsorship before they can become specialist schools - centres of excellence in technology, languages, sports or the arts - which get up to £560,000 of public money over three years. There are almost 400 of them.

As a result, that sponsorship requirement is likely to be dropped.

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