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Opponents draw up plans to wreck zones

Teachers are threatening to wreck the Government's flagship initiative as ministers prepare to announce their first Education Action Zones.

Members on the left of the National Union of Teachers have launched the National Campaign Against Education Action Zones after failing to get the NUT to back outright opposition to zones at its Easter conference.

With the backing of other opponents to the initiative, they say they will attempt to make zones unworkable by running campaigns wherever they are set up. Strike action is possible.

The Government will announce the first education action zones on Tuesday - 12 to be launched in September, the rest in January.

The announcement of all 25 comes despite speculation that barely 20 bids received by the Department for Education and Employment were worth serious consideration.

DFEE officials are known to have travelled around the country encouraging local authorities to spice up bids with more innovative ideas and greater private sector involvement.

The business community's lack of enthusiasm is thought to have disappointed ministers who wanted zones to generate a new blueprint for state education and believed the private sector will bring with it innovation.

Most zones are expected in inner city areas of poor educational achievement. Campaign joint convenor Vin Spencer said: "We don't want children in working class areas to be experimented upon."

A spokesman for the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said:

"The Government has made clear EAZs are all about raising educational standards, which is something I'm sure everybody is committed to."

The campaign was launched on Sunday following a conference attended by 100 people in May. It is opposed to the potential suspension of the national curriculum in action zones and the tearing up of teachers' pay and conditions. It also objects to firms profiting from education.

Members say many bids have been drawn up behind doors, without consultation among the schools which will be in the zones. They aim to win enough local support to persuade schools to pull out of zones, as they are entitled to.

"We want people to be aware of what's going on and what the bids mean," Mr Spencer, a member of Liverpool NUT, said.

"Once bids are announced, we will move into those areas, blitz them with information and let teachers, support staff and parents know what will happen to their schools if those bids go ahead.

"We'll try to make them as unworkable as possible so the Government has to abandon it."

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