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UNUSUAL EDUCATION ACTION ZONE WORKING WELL

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Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education report that the ...
Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education report that the

South East England Virtual Education Action Zone (SEEVEAZ) is working

well under positive leadership. Its work is bringing benefits to

school managers and teachers and there are good relationships with

schools. The activities of the zone are well matched to its aims and

are monitored, evaluated and disseminated carefully. However,

teachers and others would benefit from an updated, clear, consistent

re-statement of the zone's purposes and activities.

The contributions of SEEVEAZ to school improvement are beginning to

bear fruit, although, at this stage it is too soon to see significant

effects on pupils' achievement. The development of information and

communications technology (ICT) is a strong feature of the zone's

work. The availability of equipment and training has supported

greatly increased use of ICT. A growing number of teachers are

showing how the potential of ICT to improve pupils' attainment can be

realised.

However, not all the zone's aims are being pursued or met to the same

degree. The zone has lower levels of educational disadvantage than

most EAZs, but levels of achievement vary widely. There are

significant issues for schools serving disadvantaged communities and

the zone could do more to help address them. Issues such as

attendance, although it has shown some improvement, poor behaviour

and other barriers to learning need closer attention and call for the

zone to work with other agencies in a more deliberate way. The aim

to encourage change in curriculum organisation is not yet being

reflected in significant ways in schools.

The zone was created in April 2000 after a bid was developed by four

specialist schools. Liaison with three LEAs - Bexley, Bromley and

Essex - developed subsequently, although Bexley is no longer

involved. Distinctive features of the zone are the distance between

the schools and its aim to use information technology as the main

medium for communication - hence the claim to be 'virtual'. The

19 schools involved are widely scattered in areas such as:

Saffron Walden, Waltham Abbey, Hockley, Bromley, Beckenham,

Colchester and Penge. Two schools have become teacher-training

schools, two have been designated Beacon schools and one has gained

specialist school status since the inception of the zone. There are

nearly 13,000 pupils in total in schools in the zone.

NOTES

1. The report Inspection of South East England Virtual Education

Action Zone is available on the OFSTED website

www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspections.

2. EAZs are partnerships, which are intended to tackle entrenched

problems of underachievement and social exclusion in disadvantaged

areas. The first 25 Education Action Zones (EAZs) were designated by

the government to begin in September 1998, although their activity

often did not start until January 1999. Second-round zones are

funded for three years in the first instance. They receive a grant

from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) of£750,000 per

year and are expected to raise at least a further£250,000 per year

from private sources. The zone has received approval of a two- year

extension of funding until April 2005.

3. The zone was inspected using the Framework for the Inspection of

Education Action Zones, published in December 2000. The inspection

was based on data, some of which was provided by the zone, on school

inspection information and on documents provided by the zone.

Discussions were held with staff, Action Forum members and the local

education authorities (LEAs) and other partners involved. All

schools in the zone were invited to complete a questionnaire about

the zone's management and initiatives; all did so. Partners

nominated by the zone were also invited to comment. Three of the

zone's activities were studied in detail. These were: the

development of leadership and management; improvement in teaching and

learning; and the use of information and communication technology

(ICT). Visits were made to six primary and nine secondary schools in

the zone to provide evidence of the impact of these and other

initiatives. Visits incorporated discussions with headteachers,

staff, parents and pupils as well as observation of lessons.

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