Twenty-five councils have won bids to set up literacy and numeracy centres to combat poor standards in the 3Rs and tackle the 20 per cent of primary lessons identified as unsatisfactory by inspectors.
Thirteen literacy and 12 numeracy centres - five more than originally planned - will open in September, working with schools to encourage teachers to use methods which inspection and research evidence has found to be effective. Three of the winning authorities - Southwark, Islington and Tower Hamlets - are already the subject of an Office for Standards in Education inquiry into literacy to be published at Easter.
The centres, announced by the Education and Employment Secretary, will be directed from a national office and will employ full-time consultants to work with groups of schools, helping them to establish what standard pupils have reached and set "ambitious but realistic" targets for improvement. They will work closely with OFSTED and provide training for "specialist teacher assistants" in numeracy and literacy.
The Government has made available Pounds 5 million a year for the centres through GEST (grants for education support and training).
Many of the winning authorities include disadvantaged inner-city areas, though a couple of affluent south-eastern counties are represented. The authorities are: Literacy centres - Bristol, Essex, Hampshire (with Isle of Wight), Sandwell, Islington, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Newham, Norfolk, Sheffield, Southwark (with Lambeth), Waltham Forest. Numeracy centres: Barnsley, Bedfordshire, Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Dudley, Durham, Hackney, Lancashire, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Wigan.