The approval of a further 41 Education Action Zones has brought the total to 67. The first zone was launched in September 1998. The zones are local partnerships between groups of schools (typically around 20), businesses, parents, local education authorities, the community and others, designed to boost standards in areas facing challenging circumstances. They are typically formed around two or three secondary schools and their feeder primary schools.Zones receive annual funding for their initial 3 year life which can amount to 3m pounds. Major businesses like Jaguar, Barclays and Safeway support the zones as well as small local businesses. In total the initiative has brought 18m pounds of sponsorship into education from the private sector.
Zones are run in different ways, with various types of organisation taking the lead. The day-to-day running of a zone is usually carried out by a project director. Within zones there is flexibility in the way that schools are governed and other constraints, such as times of attendance are removed. Governing bodies can choose to contract with a forum to provide specific services relating to staffing or curriculum. The National Union of Teachers is opposed to the zone concept.
Each zone develops innovative solutions to address local problems which include underachievement, truancy and exclusion. Measures adopted include nurture units for pupils with behavioural difficulties, mentors to act as role models, summer schools and homework clubs and extra use of information technology.