Action zones miss the target

9th May 1997 at 01:00
There is a widely held view, exemplified by your leader of April 25, that the solution to the problems of educational disadvantage and educational inequality can be found by diverting resources to schools in disadvantaged areas.

Such a policy, however, is unlikely to succeed because, as the Educational Priority Area research found in the 1970s, the majority of poor pupils do not live in poor areas.

There are about four times as many primary schools serving advantaged areas as there are serving disadvantaged areas.

If the proportion of poor pupils in disadvantaged schools is three times the proportion of poor pupils in advantaged schools, then there will be one-third times more poor pupils attending advantaged schools as there are poor pupils attending disadvantaged schools.

Moreover, if we assume a third of pupils are living in poverty, then directing resources at disadvantaged schools will inadvertently give a further benefit to about 10 per cent of the pupils who are not poor, and who attend disadvantaged schools.

Research over the years suggests that the problems of educational inequality, although exacerbated by the policies of Tory governments, would be better addressed by tackling the problems of poverty, rather than by the creation of Education Action Zones.

IAN PLEWIS Mathematical sciences Institute of Education University of London

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