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Friday, 5 June, 1998, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Experimenting for the future
Education action zone graphic
BBC Education Correspondent Mike Baker looks ahead to the arrival of a radical experiment in British education, the Education Action Zones.

The creation of Education Action Zones is either the most exciting, or most threatening, prospect for schools, according to your point of view.

The policy is deliberately innovative and radical and, as such, is seen as potentially dangerous by much of the educational establishment. The government, though, believes it is justifiable to experiment in places where the current school system is failing.

The Schools Minister, Stephen Byers, says the action zones are to be "the test-bed for the school system of the next century". They will be encouraged to experiment with such things as the length of the school day and year, teachers' pay and conditions and the school curriculum.

As if that were not enough to frighten the teacher unions and local education chiefs, the creation of special forums to manage the schools within the zones will, inevitably, dilute the direct relationship between schools and town halls. Some see it as the beginning of the end for local democratic control of education.

Add to that heady mix the involvement of private enterprise and business in school management and the potential for controversy becomes clear.

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