Headlines: June 12th, 2007



Schools in deprived parts of Greater Manchester and the Black Country are to share a 160 million pound fund designed to raise standards. Half the money will also go to an extension of the London Challenge, which began work to step up school standards in 2003 and which is already credited with helping to achieve a dramatic improvement.

Over three years from next year, the money will be used in a targeted drive to deal with a cycle of low attainment by children from the poorest backgrounds in primary and secondary schools in the three areas. The Black Country Challenge is due to be launched in April next year in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The Greater Manchester Challenge will target ten local authority areas, Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

Both regions have a history of under-achievement among young people in some areas. The target over the three years is to turn around the major problems faced by schools, to bring about a sharp drop in under performing schools, create more outstanding schools and to achieve better results for disadvantaged children. Under-performing schools will receive intensive support and a leadership strategy will be developed by school leaders for school leaders and will see head teachers of successful schools working with weaker schools to improve their leadership teams. The Challenge regions will also get a tailored package of support for disadvantaged students.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, said the experience in London had shown sustained investment and a focus on standards did bring results. “I am confident that by working with our partners in the Black Country and Greater Manchester, we will be able to use some of the lessons learnt in London to transform education in both regions which have suffered from a history of low expectations and underachievement,” he added.