Schools to face tough new curbs in education shake-up

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Schools and local authorities will face tighter government control than ever before under plans to be outlined in a White Paper today.

The education White Paper, billed as the biggest assault on low standards since the Second World War, proposes to centralise more power in the hands of the Secretary of State for Education and to tie funding more closely to raising school standards. It is expected to say that new Education Action Zones, run by a partnership of schools, business and education authorities to raise standards in low-performing areas, will have the first call on revenue funds.

The Prime Minister said he wanted every school to build a distinctive character and promised a new "fast track" to identify the inspirational head teachers of the future. He also called for teachers to shun mixed- ability classes in favour of groups allowing children to develop "as fast as they can". David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, will acquire new powers to take over failing local authorities and to close failing schools when he believes that authorities are not acting quickly enough.