School standards minister Stephen Byers will have responsibility for the unit which will be headed by Michael Barber.
Mr Byers and Professor Barber will work closely to implement key government policies for raising standards, including the achievement of targets for improved literacy and numeracy, and will refocus the way in which the DfEE relates to schools and other educational partners.
Mr Blunkett said:
'Raising standards of young people's achievement - particularly in the three Rs - is my very highest priority, and the new unit will be the focus of that work. Stephen and Michael will be helping me set up mechanisms through which we shall draw on best practice in schools.
'I am publishing today the remit of the unit. It is ambitious but I am confident that we can achieve what we have promised.
'I have asked Michael to work directly alongside DfEE officials and develop a new relationship with schools, LEAs and other educational partners. I want the DfEE to face outwards in a way which relates directly to the needs of schools. Michael's appointment will enable us to take that process forward even more rapidly.'
Mr Byers said:
'Improving standards in our schools is a top priority for the government. We intend to offer high quality education opportunities for all our children.
'Teachers, schools and local education authorities all have important responsibilities to discharge. I am confident that the standards and effectiveness unit will play a vital role in ensuring improved educational opportunities.'
THE STANDARDS AND EFFECTIVENESS UNIT: ITS ROLE AND FUNCTION
The secretary of state has assigned to the new standards and effectiveness unit the following responsibilities:
A. driving forward government policy to raise standards across all schools, and especially to achieve the targets for primary literacy and numeracy;
B. supporting the secretary of state in establishing an effective mechanism for consulting teachers and all other educational partners;
C. advising the secretary of state on the school improvement role of LEAs and advising him on individual LEA education development plans;
D. co-ordinating the contribution of OFSTED, TTA and QCA to school improvement;
E. establishing an outreach capacity to enable the department to feed into, and from, best practice in schools and LEAs (building on the existing Improving Schools programme);
F. implementing the literacy strategy set out in the Literacy Task Force report, and overseeing any similar work arising from the Numeracy Task Force;
G. ensuring coherent systems for the collection, analysis and use of performance data to measure pupils' progress, compare performance and stimulate improved performance at national, local and school level;
H. ensuring that all schools use the data to set targets for measurable improvement, within effective systems for planned self- improvement;
I. advising the secretary of state on the improvement of failing and seriously weak schools, with the objective of raising the performance of the lowest decile of schools relative to the median, and disseminating the lessons learned to the benefit of all schools;
J. co-ordinating DfEE research activities in school improvement and ensuring that relevant research informs government policy;
K. promoting effective relationships on standards and effectiveness with other stakeholders including business;
L. developing and implementing where appropriate the concept of Education Action Zones;
M. developing a national database of best practice to be made accessible to all schools;
N. setting out the government's school improvement policy proposals for the full parliament in a coherent statement within a white paper, and carrying out an extended and thorough consultation with all educational partners.