Although education action zones have helped primary schools cut truancy, they have not had a significant impact on the secondary sector.
This was despite the 73 zones each receiving up to pound;1 million a year in government support. The private sector also gave a total of pound;8m cash and pound;28.2m "in kind".
The report for ministers on the impact of zones from 1998-2001 reveals that national key stage 3 test results failed to improve more rapidly than either national figures or the results of a group of similarly deprived schools not covered by an action zone.
At GCSE, the picture was more mixed. The proportion of pupils getting five Cs or better in zones set up in 1998 rose by 1 percentage point more than in comparable schools. There was also a significant reduction in the proportion of pupils leaving schools in the zones with no GCSEs.
But GCSE results in zones set up in 1999 merely kept pace with national improvements and those of comparable schools.
Truancy dropped faster in zones than elsewhere, while primary test results rose faster than in comparable schools not in a zone. Action zones are being phased out from next year as the programme is merged into the Excellence in Cities regeneration scheme.