Despite Government reforms designed to raise standards of state education, according to official rankings, more than 150,000 UK children are being taught in under-performing secondary schools.
Around 180 comprehensive schools are failing to hit minimum floor targets imposed by the Coalition, writes Graeme Paton of The Telegraph. For persistently failing to ensure at least 4-in-10 pupils gain five good GCSE passes, schools risk being turned into independent academies under new leadership.
A Government drive to promote traditional subjects in the state education system leads to the disclosure in official school-by-school league tables for England. The number of teenagers taking GCSEs in a string of academic disciplines last summer surged by 72,000 in just 12 months as the figures are expected to show. This represents the first real evidence that controversial reforms of league tables have changed pupils' subject options.
Exams in subjects covered by the "English Baccalaureate", which measures performance in English, math, science, foreign languages and history or geography, were taken by just over a third of teenagers. This is less than a quarter when compared with the year earlier.
Some schools are likely to have been dragged below minimum targets for 16-year-old demanded by the Coalition by the move towards "tougher" disciplines, putting them at risk of take-over. After Barking and Dagenham Council successfully gained an injunction this week preventing ministers turning a failing comprehensive into an academy, it is likely to place the Government on a fresh collision course with local authorities. However, academy status was found to have improved results across the country according to Department for Education. Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders, a charity set up to train school heads, said:
"Schools that are underperforming should be held accountable. It is right to shine a spotlight on schools that aren't improving fast enough because children only get one chance at their education.
"Evidence does suggest that sponsored academies are improving faster than the national average but they are not a silver bullet. In the end, it's good teaching and leadership that matters."
All state schools in England have been told to ensure that at least 40% of pupils gain five A* to C grades at GCSE, including the core subjects of English and maths – the second year that the target has been set at this level under Coalition reforms. Additionally, separate targets relating to the amount of progress made by children in the three-Rs between the age of 11 and 16 must be satisfied by them.
Although 20 had already been closed and converted into academies led by a private sponsor, some 215 secondary schools fell below the floor target in 2012. By the end of the last academic year in summer 2013, some 180 schools were believed to still languish below the floor target.