Full confidence in action zones

18th September 1998 at 01:00
The front-page headline "Zones may fail for lack of profit" (TES, September 4) misrepresented the main points made in our discussion with Frances Rafferty, and reported in her article which followed the headline.

Contrary to the messages implied by the headline, we are confident that the Newham education action zones can succeed; we have confidence in the potential of the Government's action zone initiative to foster productive improvements in our education system; and we are not privy to any information that would enable us to "warn" the Government of the potential for "failure" in any other zones.

We do feel, however, that an open discussion is needed about the prerequisites for creating and sustaining productive change in a system that has been allowed by all of us to lag behind other developments in our society for many years. Without such prerequisites, the action zones are unlikely to progress as rapidly as our young people, their parents and our educational staff deserve.

We live in times of tight financial constraint. Taxpayers are rightly concerned that scarce public funds should be wisely invested.

Accordingly, if an absolute increase in funding is not available, the Government may well have to consider focusing current funding commitments more intensively on those zones which demonstrate the ability to deliver superior improvements in performance. Once successful improvement examples become evident, the costs of replicating these practices across the sector will fall materially.

Arthur Andersen is pleased to be able to play a part in this important evolutionary process.

Graham A J Walker Head of government and education services Arthur Andersen London WC2

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