THE Government's flagship Excellence in Cities initiative has given a significant boost to schools in some of the country's most deprived areas, teachers acknowledged this week.
As ministers unveiled the first annual report on the programme, union leaders admitted that hundreds of schools had benefited from extra funding and staff.
Early findings indicated that exam results in the areas covered by the scheme are improving more quickly than in others and that the numbers leaving with no qualifications had dropped twice as fast.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:
"The Excellence in Cities programme has proved to be a substantial response to the point we have been making for years about the need to give extra support to schools serving disadvantaged areas."
Launching the report, Estelle Morris, school standards minister, announced an expansion of the mentor element of the scheme that aims to give demanding pupils one-to-one attention (see right).
She said an annual budget of more than pound;100 million would be used to double he number of paid learning mentor posts in secondaries from 1,500 to 3,200 by 2004, while 900 would be appointed to primaries by the end of the academic year.
Ms Morris also announced that city learning centres would get an extra pound;150,000 to bring in Internet and video technology on top of the pound;220,000 they already receive for running costs and the pound;1.2 m capital funding for building and equipment.
The report says that all 13 pledges made at the launch in March 1999 have been met, including those relating to beacon and specialist schools, opportunities for gifted pupils and introduction of small action zones.
The Excellence in Cities annual report is available from www.standards.dfee.gov.ukexcellence
Facts and figures
September 1999: Phase One covers secondary schools in 25 local education authorities.
September 2000: a further 22 areas join up, along with primary pilots in Phase One areas.
September 2001: a further 10 areas to join. Programme will then cover more than 1,000 schools- about a third of all secondary-age pupils in the country