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Schools to be hub of welfare centres

Geraldine Hackett and Nicolas Barnard report on plans to tackle exclusion

ONE-STOP centres incorporating schools, health centres and social services offices are planned for the country's most deprived estates in the Government's latest bid to tackle social exclusion.

The initiative is expected to be announced at the end of this month and is likely to conflict with David Blunkett's plans for "city academies" run by private, voluntary and church sponsors to raise inner-city school standards.

The move comes as fresh re-search shows schools have become more socially polarised since Labour came to power.

The one-stop community bases will be recommended by the Government's social exclusion unit as a way of breaking the culture of failure that has taken hold in some inner cities. The concept of one-stop centres was pioneered in the USA where they are known as "full service schools".

The unit's conclusions draw on Scottish pilot projects to create school sites that include health centres and social service agencies. It would build on the Government's SureStart programme which gives advice and support to young parents and which ministers believe is paying dividends.

Mr Blunkett's proposed city academies - similar to another American initiative, the charter school - provoked a furious reaction this week.

They mark a radical extension of the Fresh Start programme - itself under pressure this week with the resignation o three of its first 10 headteachers.

Closely tying the proposal to Labour's social exclusion programme, Mr Blunkett said the Government had a duty to the whole community to intervene when a school failed.

"A school is part of a community. If it dies, it is not merely the teachers that have to move on, it is the children whose life chances are destroyed," he said.

The Scottish Executive has committed pound;26 million over three years to set up one-stop centres. Michael White, director of education in Aberdeenshire, said they made it easier to deal with the problems facing inner-city families.

The Office for Standards in Education highlighted the gap between schools in the poorest areas and the rest in its latest report. Only 10 secondary schools in seriously disadvantaged areas manage anywhere near the average for the numbers achieving five higher-grade GCSEs.

Research from Cardiff University published this week, showed that the most deprived pupils are now more likely than ever to be concentrated in the weakest schools. The study, based on DFEE figures, overturns earlier suggestions that schools were becoming more socially mixed.

Further coverage:

Underachievers to spend a term in the US, page 3

Boredom-beating projects help cut teenage crime, 4

Fresh Start heads quit, 7

How city academies will work, 7

Make-or-break for zones, 11

Leader, 19

Schools' social polarisation, 28

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