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Blunkett to continue 'shaming'

"Naming and shaming" has worked and the Government is prepared to do it again until every weak school in Britain is embarrassed into pulling its socks up. That was the message Education Secretary David Blunkett was giving this week after teachers condemned the public humiliation of 18 failing schools as pointless posturing.

When the 18 schools were named less than three weeks after the general election on May 20, the move was seen as part of the new Government's determination to "hit the ground running" and establish its credentials as an administration determined to root out failure.

On Monday, David Blunkett said the Government had a moral duty to prevent parents from being deluded into thinking their child's school was doing well. "I make no apology for it and we will continue doing it whatever anyone says."

However, he would not say when a new list would be drawn up, or whether the naming exercise - which cost #163;90,000 - would be a regular event. Chief inspector Chris Woodhead said there were about 20 schools that had been languishing on special measures for two years or more, but this includes the 14 schools still on the list.

Mr Blunkett denied that it was intended to humiliate the schools and said he was baffled by the suggestion that teachers should be treated with kid gloves: "We would never use the term 'humiliation' in transport or industry #201; we would not wonder if it would upset a train driver if you asked if he was competent to drive."

The 18 schools have been divided into five categories. No school has been judged so hopeless that it is recommended for closure - Handsworth Wood boys' was scheduled to close anyway. Four have made enough progress to come out of special measures, two (Mostyn Gardens, Lambeth, and Selhurst High, Croydon) are still giving "cause for concern". Six are making "reasonable" progress, the future of two more is being considered by their education authority; two have recently gained a new head; Blakelaw secondary in Newcastle is to be relaunched under the Government's "fresh start" policy.

But the Government was embarrassed on Monday when its star performer, Morningside primary in Hackney, refused to play the game. Morningside was the only school that had made enough progress to come out of special measures immediately, and was singled out for praise.

But its head, Jean Millham, said that being "named" had hindered rather than accelerated the school's progress, which was well advanced anyway. The Government's action had been a "devastating kick in the teeth," she said, "I hope they will learn this is not the way to do it."

To which David Blunkett replied: "Whatever her emotional reaction, Morningside was in real difficulties. It has now accelerated out of failure in just six months."

Mrs Millham's criticisms were echoed by teacher unions. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, called it "a shallow attempt to give credence to a political stunt by the Government ... a politically-driven process which has nothing to do with raising standards".

Doug McAvoy of the National Union of Teachers said the policy was "media manipulation, with no positive impact and no educational validity".

Apart from Morningside, many of the schools on the list expressed doubts as to the wisdom of the name and shame policy. Ross Wallace at Blakelaw (which is to get a "fresh start") was fairly positive.

Although the morale of staff and students was damaged, he said, "in the end it acted as a catalyst".

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