Can they forgive Mr Blunkett?

EDUCATION Secretary David Blunkett's pledge that there will be no more "naming and shaming" failing schools will be widely welcomed.

Publicly humiliating 18 schools within weeks of taking office was not one of the Labour's publicity masterstrokes.

It had the teacher unions baying for blood while parents pulled children out of schools.

Graham Lane, the Labour education chair of the Local Government Association, said: "The spin doctors who might have been good at winning the general election didn't seem to know how to behave when in government.

"I would have sent in help squads, not hit squads, and would have blamed the last government for doing nothing about raising standards in these schools. "

He added that ministers had put in the extra help and resources but hadn't got the kudos they deserved because they had started by with naming and shaming.

Mr Blunkett said naming and shaming had now been "subsumed" under the new procedure where failing schools have two years to turn themselves around.

Six of the 18 schools have now been taken off special measures. Two have been given a fresh start and are no longer subject to special measures. Four have either closed or closure is pending.

Four are likely to be ready to come out of special measures soon. Two are still being monitored by the Department for Education and Employment.

The Centre for British Teachers, a private not-for-profit company, has been called in by the London borough of Hackney to take over the running of Rams Episcopal primary.

Edison, the US company which runs state schools for profit, has expressed an interest in taking over at least one of the other named and shamed schools.

It has been a bruising experience for all the 18 schools, eight of whom have new headteachers.

Schools that were improving said that they would have done so anyway. Those in trouble said their problems were exacerbated - they lost pupils and had serious difficulties recruiting staff.

At Upbury Manor, a grant-maintained school in Kent, 15 teachers left. At Selhurst high in Croydon competency procedures were lodged against 15 teachers.

And Lloyd Marshall, head of closure-threatened Dulwich boys' high, said: "We have never been given a level playing-field. It has always been an uphill struggle." Between 86 per cent and 94 per cent of boys arrive at the south London school with reading ages two years or more below their chronological age. Up to 20 per cent of the roll, at times, have been excluded from other schools.

Mr Marshall said: "The Government talks about zero tolerance. I wish I could work at zero tolerance - I wouldn't take some of the boys who are sent to me."

But there have been success stories. Among them is South Benwell primary in Newcastle upon Tyne which has already exceeded its local authority-set target for English - 44 per cent of 11-year-olds have reached level 4 or above at the end of key stage 2, 14 per cent more than expected this year.

At Abbey Farm middle school in Thetford, Norfolk, 51 per cent of 11-year-olds gained level 4 or above in English compared to 22 per cent in 1997.

And at the former Earl Marshal secondary in Sheffield, closed at the end of the summer and opened as Fairvale school, parents are now working alongside their children. Sheffield College has just opened a unit on the school's site and is working closely with Fairvale.

Meanwhile, the former Blakelaw secondary has been given Pounds 2.5 million from Whitehall and has now re-opened as Firfield community school with a revised curriculum and almost completely new staff.


Restored to health

Abbey Farm middle, Norfolk Lea Green special, Waltham Forest Lilian Baylis secondary, Lambeth Morningside primary, Hackney St Mary of the Angels primary, Westminster Upbury Manor GM secondary, Kent Fresh start, no longer subject to special measures

Blakelaw secondary, Newcastle, now Firfield community school Earl Marshal secondary, Sheffield, now Fairvale school Closed or closure is pending

Dulwich High, Southwark Handsworth Wood Boys, Birmingham Mostyn Gardens primary, Lambeth Southfields GM secondary, Kent About to come out of special measures

Ashburton High, Croydon Kelsey Park GM secondary, Bromley Our Lady of Fatima High GM secondary, Liverpool South Benwell primary, Newcastle Still monitored by the DFEE

Rams Episcopal primary, Hackney Selhurst High, Croydon

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