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Private sector cold-shoulders fledgling EAZs

Efforts by education action zones to raise private sponsorship show disappointing results, reports Warwick Mansell.

FRESH criticisms were levelled at the Government's first major foray into private involvement in education this week, after it emerged that only one in six education action zones has hit its target for commercial sponsorship.

Only 12 of the 73 EAZs launched in the past three years have raised the expected pound;250,000 a year from business, a parliamentary written answer revealed.

Four zones have found less than pound;100,000 of sponsorship. One, in Westminster, raised only pound;10,000. All the figures include "in kind" sponsorship.

Meanwhile, of the 40 smaller zones set up by ministers since April last year, 28 have raised nothing at all, the written answer reveals. Small EAZs are supposed to raise pound;50,000 annually. Only five had done so, according to the figures.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary designate of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "This sends a message to the Government in its love affair with the private sector.

"The idea that private business will support the public sector for altruistic reasons is an illusion.

"The private sector will not get involved unless it thinks there is a profit to be made. While there is nothing wrong in that in itself, the objective of profitability will come into conflict with providing a public service for all in education."

Newham was ranked first among the larger zones for fundraising, with pound;991,000 in cash or kind since it was established in September 1998. Two other zones, in Bedford and Oxford, raised more than pound;800,000.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Some EAZs have more problems than others in raising sponsorship due to their location and other factors such as competition for limited financial support locally.

"EAZs are allocated to hard-pressed areas, and these hard-pressed areas have a great deal of work to do to raise sponsorship." Rosemary Marsden, director of the Westminster zone, said the zone had registered such a low figure because a cheque for pound;100,000 from a property development company had been submitted late.

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