Among the earliest of new Labour initiatives as part of the priority given to education, they take as a starting point two principles: that, in deprived urban and rural areas, more needs to be done to ensure that all pupils have the chance to succeed; and that it is essential that the school system has a built-in capacity or change and innovation.
Zones are established in response to applications from around 15-25 schools and their partners. Applicants have to demonstrate how they will raise standards and set themselves demanding targets for improvement.
Zones have a certain legislative flexibility. For example, they do not have to stick to nationally agreed teachers’ pay and can arrange new contracts. They can also opt out of the National Curriculum if they can show that this will raise standards.