Headlines: July 4th, 2000

Two years into the Education Action Zone initiative the first results give grounds for optimism, but leave many questions unanswered. The findings show that pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE Grade A-Cs improved at twice the rate of schools outside the zones. There was also a 4% improvement above the national average for Maths (Key stage 2). Levels of attendance improved in some, but not in all zones.The first 25 zones were approved in June 1998 as test beds for innovation to drive up educational standards. A key feature of the zones is the involvement of the private sector. A zone is made of about 20 primary, secondary and special schools in a local area. It is run by a forum of businesses, schools, parents and the local education authority.

The difficulty in assessing the success of a zone is that measures of progress are influenced by other factors such as the impact on the pupils and teachers of health action zones, employment zones, re-generation and crime and disorder partnerships. Evaluating benefits of the education zone concept is even more complex, because some of the outcomes may have little to do with the additional funding or the zone process.