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More secondaries facing closure

But Ofsted figures show primaries are improving as overall total of failing schools continues to fall, reports Jon Slater

The number of secondary schools facing closure after inspectors judged them to be failing rose last term, according to figures published by Ofsted.

Inspectors had put 96 secondary schools in England in special measures by March 31, two more than at the end of the previous term.

But primary schools showed an improvement, with 30 taken off the failing list during the spring term. Five more failing primaries were closed, and 11 others were put in special measures between January and March.

Overall, the number of failing schools fell by 10 per cent to 285 during the spring term - the second consecutive term to register an improvement.

Secondary schools are now more than three times as likely as primaries to be in special measures. Ofsted said there was no simple reason for the difference, although failing secondaries take longer to turn around.

The Secondary Heads Association said it would raise the matter with inspectors.

The latest drop in the number of failing schools follows a 30 per cent increase during 2003-4, at the end of which there were 332 schools in special measures.

The number of primaries in special measures has fallen from 201 at the start of the school year to 156 at the end of last term. There were small falls in the number of failing special schools and pupil referral units.

Thrussington primary, Leicester, came out of special measures in January, 11 months early. Liz Moore, headteacher since September, said: "We are delighted. It is down to the hard work and dedication of staff. Being in a failing school is rather like being in Alcoholics Anonymous. You all sit around in a circle talking quietly until things improve and then at one point you come out."

Last term five failing primaries and one secondary were closed.

Ofsted also reported a reduction in both the number of schools with serious weaknesses and those judged to be underachieving.

For the first time, it published a regional breakdown of failing schools.

This shows that schools in London are most likely to be failing (2.3 per cent) and those in the North-east least likely (0.6 per cent).

At the end of last year, there were only seven schools in special measures in the North-east. Ofsted said care should be taken not to read too much into the figures because the North-east is smaller than other regions and so more prone to fluctuations.


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