Headlines: June 17th, 2004

For the first time, standards in schools in inner-city areas are improving faster than anywhere else in the country. The news was given by Education Minister David Miliband, speaking at the Excellence in Cities Annual Conference in Birmingham. He said the EiC targeted programme of support for urban schools was helping to transform education in some of England’s toughest areas.Excellence in Cities is centred on areas with the highest levels of deprivation and has grown to cover 57 local authorities since its launch in 1999. Figures show that last year schools in EiC areas improved on average at twice the rate of schools elsewhere. There were also notable regional successes such as in Gateshead where secondary schools improved on average more than four times as fast as schools nationally, Barking & Dagenham where they improved almost three times faster and in Birmingham and Wandsworth where the rate of improvement was double that nationally.Since 1997, the percentage of students, aged 15 or 16, achieving five good GCSE grades has risen by 8 per cent nationally but that figure is surpassed by rises ranging from 11 to 14 per cent in London, Manchester and Birmingham. There is a similar picture with 11 year olds leaving primary schools with a reading and writing age of 11. The number has risen by 12 per cent nationally but significantly above that rate in inner London, in Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield.

David Miliband said high aspirations for pupils had to be reflected in high aspirations for the school as a whole and Excellence in Cities schools were being encouraged to develop their own ethos and goals, to create innovative partnerships and to work in collaboration to share good practice and make the most of local resources.