UK: 100 Academies in Danger of Missing GCSE Benchmarks

A number of academies around Britain – schools that are publicly funded but operate independently – are being taken to task for delivering poor GCSE results last year, reports Graeme Paton for The Daily Telegraph. The schools are being asked to submit their upcoming results directly to the Education Ministry so that the body can be fully appraised of their performance.

Included in the data being requested are attendance rates, students' grades and exclusions numbers, in addition to head teacher assessment of the teaching quality of the school's faculty. All this is a part of an initiative to maintain a watching brief on schools that are in danger of falling below GCSE targets.

The announcement that nearly 100 academies around Britain are now being closely watched comes only days before the public release of the eagerly awaited annual school league tables that rank the performance of all primary and secondary schools in the country. According to Paton, prior to publication the expectation was that around 250 secondary schools will show failing results.

The standards set out by Whitehall require schools to have 40% of their students complete the compulsory education sequence that includes five GCSEs, two of which are in the core subjects of mathematics and English. Schools that fail to meet these requirements are in danger of losing their head teachers and other top administrators.

But on Friday it emerged that the Government had concerns over at least 100 of its flagship academies – independent state schools with complete freedom over the curriculum, admissions, staff pay and the length of the school day. For the first time, they are being asked to submit detailed scorecards to the DfE every six weeks monitoring their performance against a range of criteria including pupils' exam progress and attendance.

In addition to academic information, academy heads are being asked to also evaluate the financial foundation of their schools. That means that they will need to send in their assessment of the school's admissions policy, fiscal health and the instructional quality.

Some are saying that the admission that academies are struggling could boomerang onto the Government which has thrown its support behind the idea of improving education through these kinds of school choice measures.

Last night, the Department for Education insisted it would be as tough on academies as conventional comprehensives when schools fail to perform.

But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Times Educational Supplement that it represented a "very bureaucratic, heavy-handed approach".

01 22, 2013
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