The Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, said the Standards and Effectiveness Unit would be charged with driving forward Government policy to lift standards in all schools and, in particular, hitting literacy and numeracy targets for primary-age children.
The unit will be overseen by the School Standards Minister, Stephen Byers, and headed by Professor Michael Barber, former Dean of New Initiatives at London University's Institute of Education.
It will act as a advisory body to the Secretary of State over the establishment of a mechanism for consulting teachers and other educational partners on policy issues - a step much requested by education practitioners.
Failing schools will also find themselves under the unit's watchful eye, as it advises the Secretary of State on ways to improve weak or failing institutions. Mr Byers yesterday received a report on all 281 of the country's failing schools for consideration this weekend, and is expected to announce action on the issue within the next fortnight. Lucy Ward