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Failing schools face crackdown

Legislation to force education authorities to tackle failing schools will be introduced in the autumn, Gillian Shephard announced this week.

The Schools White Paper will also give education authorities a clearer role in school improvement.

Mrs Shephard said: "At present, local education authorities are not equally effective in this area. Some LEAs have large numbers of failing and seriously weak schools; others have none. Some have been successful in turning round their weakest schools; others have not.

"Some LEAs are setting up excellent systems to encourage schools to set challenging targets to raise standards - others are not. We need to know which LEAs are falling down on their responsibilities for standards."

The White Paper will empower the Office for Standards in Education to inspect LEAs.

The proposals will comprise a system of school self-improvement using "benchmarking" and information from inspections and tests to assess performance; teacher appraisal to correct weaknesses in staff development; annual targets for improvement; and measuring progress and starting the cycle of improvement again.

The new legislation will also bolster schools' powers in dealing with pupils' bad behaviour.

Schools will be allowed to detain pupils after school, regardless of parents' consent, and will be given flexibility to suspend pupils temporarily for up to 45 days.

Mrs Shephard said that her department was also looking at changing the arrangements for appeals against exclusions; allowing oversubscribed schools to insist on home-school contracts as a condition of admission; limiting the choice of school for pupils excluded more than once; and more effective penalties against truants and their parents.

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