A case of radical action

Next week the Government launches one of the most radical plans ever which will draw in private money to tackle the problems of inner- city schools. We have been taking lessons from the Americans
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The Independent Online
PLYMOUTH'S BID for an action zone is radical. Like some of its privatised American counterparts, it plans to offer different hours to the norm such as sessions from 3.30pm to 6pm for sport, homework, drama and catch-up lessons. It would also revolutionise the school year by introducing four terms broken by equal-length holidays instead of the present three terms with a long summer break.

Education director Sohail Faruqi is, however, cautious about this idea because of the protest it could bring. He says: "It's something that we will want to debate with the profession and the teacher associations if we are successful. But we feel it's less important now in the scale of things."

Plymouth plans to develop tried and tested initiatives: parenting lessons, joint efforts with social services to cut expulsions, masterclasses and targeting literacy and numeracy.

After a year, trainee teachers would act as mentors for pupils, evening classes would be launched and schools would offer an Investor in Parents award to bring mothers and fathers into classrooms.

The city's bid, based on Tamarside Community College (pictured above) and Parkside School, and their feeder primaries in inner city Plymouth, is aimed at raising literacy and numeracy standards.

Exam results in the two secondary schools are more than 30 per cent below the national average. Primary school test results lag 17 per cent behind national norms.

Literacy is poor. Only 44 per cent of primary children reach the standard expected for their age in English, compared with just over 60 per cent for Plymouth as a whole. Truancy is also high.

The city hopes to raise achievement to the average for the city and cut truancy in half.