Hopeful signs in our inner cities

We represent the consortium commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills to carry out the national evaluation of Excellence in Cities ("Inner-city scheme praised by Ofsted", TES, December 2).

The consortium included the National Foundation for Educational Research, the Centre for Educational Research and the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, and the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

This large evaluation covered the period from 2000 up to 2003.

Our report noted that 2003 was relatively early to judge the impact of a policy which required schools significantly to change teaching and learning, but also found considerable evidence of the impact of EiC. We showed that EiC was cost effective at key stage 3 as a result of its impact on standards in maths. It had also led to improved attendance.

Other positive findings which mirror those in the Ofsted report, are that: pupils involved in programmes for the gifted and talented made greater progress than otherwise similar pupils in the same schools; local authorities in which there was greater collaboration between schools had higher levels of attainment at the end of KS3; schools, teachers and pupils were positive about the role of learning mentors and learning support units and schools often supplemented EiC funding to extend such provision.

In our report, we recommend further analysis of the attainment of pupils in 2004 and 2005. We are pleased to say that we are discussing this with the DfES, and look forward to reporting on whether EiC is having a significant impact on standards in inner-city areas.

Dr Sheila Stoney

Head of research, National Foundation for Educational Research Professor Stephen Machin

University College London; Director, Centre for the Economics of Education.

Professor Costas Meghir

University College London and Institute for Fiscal Studies Professor Anne West

Centre for Educational Research, London School of Economics

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