The zone in Leigh, near Wigan, Lancashire, is to offer six 16-year-olds leaving school this summer with no GCSEs the chance to "kick-start" their education on vocational courses at leafy Ciyuga high school.
When they return, the scheme aims to cement the teenagers' renewed involvement in learning by enrolling them at a local further education college.
Roland Absalom, the zone's director and Wigan council's assistant director of education, denied that the project rewarded failure. But he admitted that many of the youngsters, who have yet to be selected, were likely to have poor past attendance record.
He said the scheme would broaden the horizons of those who might otherwise end up jobless, or even stray into crime.
"What does it cost the nation when pupils don't go onto further education, and perhaps get involved social unrest?" he asked.
"This is a small price to pay if it means that, instead of drifting into crime, these students sign on at a further education college."
Mr Absalom added that if successful when it starts in September, the scheme could become a regular exchange between the two schools that will send the first pupils - West Leigh high and Bedford high - and Ciyuga.
The project is one of 40 innovative approaches to improving standards being tested in the Leigh zone this year.
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