The TES reveals draft details of initiative. Clare Dean reports
Gifted inner-city children will be helped by a pound;45 million scheme over the next three years under government plans to regenerate urban schools.
Details of the Excellence in Cities initiative, obtained by The TES, show that exceptionally bright pupils below the age of 13 will be able to take new "world-class" tests years before they would normally be eligible.
The tests will be comparable with those taken by youngsters in top-performing countries. This means English children will be pitted against the best in the world - initially in maths and problem-solving.
The plans are outlined in a draft version of Excellence in Cities, due for public consultation early next month. The pound;350m initiative is designed to boost the confidence of inner-city parents with special programmes for high-fliers and to bolster those pupils who desperately need help.
The consultation documents disclose that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is to produce guidance on teaching gifted children within and alongside the revised national curriculum.
The Government plans to spend pound;7m this year out of the total pound;45m to be spent on gifted and talented children by 2002.
Help for low-achieving pupils is proposed in the shape of learning mentors and learning support units in packages worth up to a total pound;17m this year.
Target secondary schools are expected to get an average of two learning mentors who will work with teaching and pastoral staff.
They will help assess children entering or returning to school and take part in progress reviews at the end of Years 7 and 9 to identify those who need additional learning support.
Low attainment, lack of motivation, non-attendance, behavioural difficulties and poor relations with staff and pupils would all be indicators of problems.
One-to-one mentoring will include remedial literacy and numeracy advice, and tackle bullying and racial harassment where they are suspected of contributing to under-achieving.
Mentors will also work with the families of children in need of extra support and with social and youth services, businesses and community workers.
All schools will also have access to a learning support unit outside the classroom, where children who need intensive support can spend some of their time.
The Department for Education and Employment insists: "In-school centres are not sin-bins. They are an expensive resource that needs to be managed well as part of a preventative strategy."
Excellence in Cities is also expected to lead to the creation of 50 new specialist schools, 1,000 beacon schools and 80 inner-city learning centres.
The learning centres will have state-of-the-art information and communication technology equipment and are expected to run breakfast, homework and holiday clubs as well as offering TV-based GCSE courses.
Ministers are working to a tight timescale on Excellence in Cities.
They outlined their proposals to the 25 councils involved in the initiative over the past eight days and have given them until May 4 to comment - in writing.
Final guidance will be issued by May 10.
The councils are Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster, City of London, Newham, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Knowsley, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Rotherham.