Government advisers are getting tough with ministers over disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Geraldine Hackett reports.
THE Government plans to use this summer's review of spending to target resources at families in the country's most deprived areas.
Ministers intend to have a national strategy in place by next spring, but the Treasury has yet to take decisions on the range of measures put forward by teams looking at ways of tackling problems on tough estates.
Research from the Institute of Education due to be published shortly supports the expansion of the existing Sure Start scheme that provides advice and support to parents with pre-school children.
In attempting to identify the factors that determine employment chances, John Bynner and his team at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, suggest social class and poverty have an impact, but early educational achievement is vital.
The Schools Plus action policy team, one of the 18 groups set up by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit, wants extra resources to go to schools in deprived areas. In a report published this week, it calls on ministers to investigate whether schools facing the toughest challenges, particularly those with pupils who frequently move between institutions, are getting the funding they require.
The report says deprived areas have higher numbers of failing schools and test results are well below the national average. Among 15-year-olds only 24 per cent get five or more higher-grade GCSEs, compared with a national figure of 46 per cent. Among 11-year-olds, only 54 per cent reached the expected standard in maths and English, compared with around 70 per cent nationally.
The Schools Plus team brings together civil servants from across Whitehall and outside experts. It includes two heads, Phillip Turner of Westgate Community College in Newcastle and Vanessa Wiseman of Langdon in the London borough of Newham.
The report is part of aseries looking at different aspects of tough neighbourhoods. It suggests schools in such areas should aim to provide three hours of study support each week for pupils and stay open for longer hours.
The report also suggests the creation of one-stop family support centres based on Scottish community schools. The centres would bring together social workers and health professionals to provide an integrated service for pupils and families (see below, left).
To promote higher achievement, it suggests pupils at risk of dropping out or those not long in English schools, be offered individual programmes of study.
The report focuses on encouraging greater community involvement in schools. It suggests identifying community learning champions to go into their local schools; creating neighbourhood learning centres to provide resources for adults and the developing schools plus teams in areas facing the toughest problems.
It asks the Government to consider giving extra funds to schools that are successful in drawing in parents and others in the community and designate them as special community schools.
It also says that the mentoring programme should be expanded (see below) and greater use made of target-setting to raise ethnic-minority pupils' performance.
A copy of the report of the Schools Plus Policy Action Team "Schools Plus: Building Learning Communities" is available from DFEE publications, tel: 0845 6022260. The website address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Schools to provide at least three hours of study support a week.
Individual programmes offered to children at risk of dropping out and for refugees.
Set up network of one-stop family support centres on school sites.
Community education fund to help schools develop community links.
Set up community colleges.
learning centres which offer facilities for adults.