The Excellence Challenge
On September 14 2000 the education secretary launched the Excellence Challenge. It is a three-year programme that will spend over £190 million to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who enter higher education. A key aim is to improve links between universities, college and schools. There are four main strands. Under strand one, nearly £90 million will go over the three years to Excellence in Cities and Education Action Zone areas. It will bring universities, other higher education institutions and further education colleges into the EiC and EAZ initiatives.
Strand two will see £48 million go to universities and higher education colleges to enable them to recruit more admissions staff and send ambassadors to schools. Some £12 million will go to the Higher Education Funding Council for England Summer School Scheme.
Under strand three, £6 million will go to providing clearer information and better marketing of the route into higher education.
Strand four is the £36 million spent on opportunity bursaries for 25,000 young people. It will also be used to pilot extra financial help for disadvantaged young people.
Excellence in Cities
In March 1999, the government launched the EiC programme. The aim is to transform levels of achievement and expectations in challenging city schools through providing learning opportunities for talented children aged 13 to 16, the widespread use of learning mentors, City Learning Centres and learning support units. In September of this year, 11 Excellence Clusters began operating. These are groups of schools that go beyond cities and have a "tailored strand" that allows schools to address local issues.
Education Action Zones
EAZs were set up in 1998 with a five-year lifespan to encourage innovation, bring in private-sector money and to spread best practice. Earlier this month, the government announced that it planned to combine the EAZ with the EiC initiative. EAZs have not brought in the expected amount of private-sector money.
Connexions advice service
Connexions is a £7.5 million advice and guidance service for 13 to 19-year-olds set up in April this year. It aims to provide an improved universal careers advice service to give teenagers support to prepare them for work and adult life.