And what exactly is an education action zone? Nicolas Barnard explains

16th January 1998 at 00:00
DFEE guidelines do little to flesh out details - the whole point is to encourage innovation. But questions remain...

MONEY: Bidders will want to know where the cash will go - both the pound;500,000 from Government and business and the regular school budgets. Will they be held centrally by the action zone forum or continue to be held by schools? Or both?

Zones will be expected to raise pound;250,000 a year from business. But this can be "in kind". If the bidders cannot raise the cash, there will be a central pool of private cash.

ACTION FORUM: Membership of the body which will oversee the zone is flexible but must be a partnership. No size is set. The DFEE expects each to include at least one representative each of parents, schools, business and council. David Blunkett will appoint up to two members.

schoolS: 10-20 primary and secondary per zone. Special schools, colleges and pupil referral units can come aboard. If any schools decline to join, the bid must say why.

TEACHERS: The National Union of Teachers has already raised concerns over the suspension of national pay and conditions inside zones. Many likely candidates for zones have recruitment problems and tearing up the national agreements could allow higher pay to tempt staff in. The NUT fears this could drain staff from schools beyond the zone. And what happens at the end of the five years?

CURRICULUM: The guidelines say the curriculum in the zones could be "radically altered". That chimes with the relaxation of the primary curriculum announced this week. It would also allow more flexibility in secondary schools.

GOVERNORS: Governors will retain their powers if they wish - or they could cede them in part or wholly to the Action Forum which will provide the zone's leadership.

PRIVATE SECTOR: Mr Blunkett identifies three possible roles for the private sector: as lead partners; as junior partners, offering work placements or other support in an extension of the role firms often play now in local education business partnerships; and as managers, hired in on contract to administer a zone.

TARGETS: With an extra pound;500,000 a year, zones will be expected to deliver. Targets will be higher than they would otherwise have been. Key indicators will be test scores and GCSE results, but could cover attendance and exclusion figures, post-16 staying-on rates or employment figures.

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