More than 30 schools were facing uncertain futures today after annual GCSE and A-level league tables were published. Some academies were among the poorest performers and there was more bad news for ministers as one of these independently-managed state schools received a second damning inspection report.
The Government had promised that from 2005 no secondary school would have fewer than 20 per cent of its pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at C or better.
But 35 schools were in that position when exam tables were published yesterday. Ministers have said that poorly-performing schools face closure, having a new head appointed or federation with other secondaries.
The tables revealed that the proportion of pupils achieving five or more good passes rose from 53.7 to 56.3 per cent, the highest rise for more than a decade.
The proportion achieving five A*-Cs including English and maths fell from 42.6 to 44.3 per cent.
Ministers revealed this figure following concerns that the traditional headline measure - the proportion of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades - allows schools to conceal poor performance in core subjects.
Last week, The TES revealed how some schools identified by the Government as England's most improved have been using general national vocational qualifications to boost their standing.
The league tables placed half of the 14 academies which had GCSE pupils last summer in the bottom 200 of England's 3,100 state secondaries. Others registered big improvements.
Joint 11th from the bottom of the tables was Unity city academy in Middlesbrough, which has been criticised again by inspectors, 10 months after becoming the first academy to be placed in special measures.
Only 16 per cent of pupils at Unity, the academy opened in 2002 at a cost of pound;19 million with sponsorship from Amey, the support services company, achieved five or more good passes.
An inspection monitoring team which visited the school in November said that in four out of five areas set out as priorities for improvement following an inspection in March, progress had been inadequate.
Unity said in a statement that its league-table position was "not a surprise" and that it was working closely with civil servants to bring about rapid improvements.
Selly Park technology college for girls topped the table for the most progress between the ages of 11 and 16. Its head called for the tables to be abolished. Michelle Magrs said: "You can use statistics to show anything. Tables can be damaging to schools which are trying their utmost to support their pupils."
The Priory, Lincoln, was the top-performing state secondary at GCSE overall, while the independent St Paul's girls' school, in London, topped the A-level table.
The Government yesterday announced that its London Challenge scheme is to be extended to cover primaries as it revealed that Greater London pupils outperformed the national state-school average for the proportion of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs including English and maths.
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