Headlines: June 3rd, 2003

Inspectors from The Office for Standards in Education have found that the Excellence in Cities and Education Action Zones initiatives are successfully tackling barriers to achievement faced by pupils in disadvantaged areas. The programmes have helped schools and teachers to meet the needs of disaffected and vulnerable pupils more effectively.The Excellence in Cities programme has delivered a faster rise in standards in secondary schools in EiC areas than nationally. The later extension of the programme to primary schools means that it is too early to see a clear effect on standards at the end of primary school, but the signs are positive. Excellence in Cities strands include: learning mentors, learning support units, provision for gifted & talented pupils as well as City Learning Centres and additional specialist schools.

The impact of the action zones programmes on attainment has been stronger in primary schools, where standards in English and mathematics have been rising at a faster rate than nationally. In secondary schools the effect of EAZs has been greater in tackling disaffection and promoting inclusion than in raising attainment. Results at Key Stage 3 and GCSE remain well below the national averages.

Both programmes have had the greatest benefits in schools where leadership and management are very good. Attention to the implications of the schemes for management in schools was insufficient at their inception, but more attention has been given to these implications as the schemes have developed. There is also concern that the effect on attainment has been uneven and more needs to be done to ensure that the initiatives help consistently to raise attainment across the board.

OFSED calls for a simplification of sources of funding, more guidance and training, more support for improving school management and raising the quality of teaching and a continuing focus on tackling poor attendance.