Firms to give pounds 18m for schools

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The Independent Online
PRIVATE companies are promising more than pounds 18m over the next three years to transform standards in schools in deprived areas, the Government will announce this week.

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, will also reveal on Tuesday that companies will take the lead in running some of the 25 education action zones which aim to bring about fundamental changes in schools, such as longer days and weekend working.

The taxpayer will contribute pounds 57m over three years to the zones, which will act as radical testbeds for bright ideas. Experiments which succeed will be introduced round the country. Mr Blunkett is anxious that zones should scrap the national curriculum if necessary and tear up teachers' contracts so good teachers can be paid more.

Ministers received more than 60 bids to run zones, the first 12 of which start in September and the remaining 13 in January.

Details of how the 25 zones will operate are likely to show the New Labour government's radical intentions in tackling the education system. Each zone is to have two or three secondary schools and up to 15 primaries, in both urban and rural areas. All will have pounds 1m a year - pounds 750,000 from the Government and pounds 250,000 from private business - to raise standards by employing high-flying teachers and heads. New "superteachers" earning up to pounds 40,000 a year will work in them.

Schools shake-up, page 11