A pound;250 million government scheme to transform education in England's most deprived areas has failed to improve results for most pupils and has even had a negative effect on some, an official independent evaluation has found.
Big spending on classroom facilities and support workers has not helped the poorest pupils to achieve better exam results. It has even hindered the brightest pupils and those who are white and British, according to the Oxford University study, which was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The pound;2bn New Deal for Communities (NDC) programme aims to regenerate whole areas. Since 2002, pound;249m has been spent directly on education, but the study says there have been no "statistically significant improvements".
There have also been "negative changes" for Indian pupils, according to Kate Wilkinson and David McLennan at Oxford's Social Disadvantage Research Centre.
The cash was spent on extra teachers and resources, extended schools, laptops and transition programmes to help pupils settle into secondary school. The level of investment in each area, which varied widely, made no difference to the success of the scheme, the research shows.
Only limited "sub-groups" of children have made any discernible progress, including 11- and 14-year-olds at key stages 2 and 3, and pupils from black, black Caribbean and Bangladeshi ethnic groups. Science results in some areas have also improved.
But the report says: "There was little evidence of a programme-wide improvement in attainment outcomes."
Researchers looked at KS3 and GCSE results for 2005-07 to analyse whether they had improved as a result of the scheme. Some areas had seen progress: there was a rise in KS3 science and GCSE passes in Luton, Tower Hamlets in east London and Sunderland. The programme was least successful in Wolverhampton, Doncaster and Hartlepool.
Another evaluation of NDC by academics at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University - released at the same time - said there was "no evidence that the presence of the NDC partnerships has made a decisive difference" and schools in other disadvantaged areas did just as well.
A spokeswoman for the DCLG said: "The report clearly states that the research can identify changes in educational attainment, but it does not tell us that these changes are owing to NDC activities."