Ministers will be delighted by the first evidence - compiled by the Department for Education and Employment - that their flagship policy is making a difference.
In Blackburn with Darwen action zone, the rate at which test results improved between 1998 and 1999 exceeded both local and national averages. Key stage 3 scores in English and science bucked national and local downward trends by increasing by seven percentage points.
"Even though it is early days and there are other initiatives in place, the fact that results are improving faster within the zone shows that the action zone is making a difference," said Harry Devonport, the EAZ's director.
Schools in Middlesbrough's action zone also improved their results faster than the LEA's other schools. In the zone in Newham, London, numbers getting five good GCSEs jumped from 13 to 18 per cent. At KS2 those achieving level 4 in English rose by two percentage points in 1999 compared with the national average of five points.