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Spotlight adds pain to remedial process

The Education Secretary hails it as a success, but others are not so sure.

Local education authority chiefs who have had to help turn around Britain's 18 schools publicly identified as failing have mixed views on whether the exercise had been worthwhile.

They believe that throwing the schools into the public spotlight had had a detrimental effect on staff, pupils and parents. However, having been singled out they had no choice but to meet the Government's demands.

David Phillips, a former education committee chairman in the London borough of Hackney, said the public humiliation of two of its primaries - Morningside and Rams Episcopal - had had "a shattering effect". The schools found it difficult to attract staff, the morale of parents and children suffered and the reputation of the schools declined.

"I think we were also faced with a concentration of resources going into these schools, at the expense of others which, though perhaps not in such a parlous state, nevertheless needed support," he said.

However, Mr Phillips said that ministerial highlighting "probably accelerated decisions that needed to be taken".

But he added: "Both the schools and the local authority already knew of the shortcomings. It was not helpful to plunge these schools into the public spotlight."

David Bell, Newcastle's chief education officer, said the process had been "painful" but had helped to galvanise the efforts of all those involved in raising standards at Blakelaw and South Benwell primary schools.

Croydon Council welcomed the Government intervention, particularly the creation of SMARTs (special measures action recovery teams) to support schools which it believed had been particularly effective.

A spokeswoman for Croydon said: "We are pleased with the findings on Ashburton, and Selhurst, which has only just moved into new premises and is therefore only half-way through its recovery. We will continue to work with both schools."

Education chiefs at Waltham Forest, home of Lea Green special school, said they had already been "quietly confident" that the north London school was making adequate progress. They had plans for the school long before it was named as failing.

A spokesman said: "We were not surprised that Lea Green is to come off special measures. We have made a great deal of progress over the past few months and we were aware that the HMIs felt the same. We believe that the public pronouncement made this week reflects the reality of the current situation. "

Dorothy Lepkowska

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