300 more on GCSE hit list

11th July 2008 at 01:00
'Coasting' schools to be threatened with closure or federation if they fail to improve results
'Coasting' schools to be threatened with closure or federation if they fail to improve results

At least 300 extra schools can expect to be subject to special scrutiny under an extension of the National Challenge scheme, a TES analysis has found.

Ministers will unveil the extension of the initiative next term. The idea is to target "coasting" secondaries where GCSE results - which may look good in raw terms - are deemed persistently "unacceptably low" given the performance expected of their pupil intakes.

These schools will come under intense pressure to improve their results, with threats of forced closures and federations if they fail.

They will join the existing 638 National Challenge schools, which have been selected on the basis that fewer than 30 per cent of their pupils have achieved five or more A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and maths.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families document published this month also warns that some primaries have been "stuck at unacceptable levels of performance for several years", pointing to the 104 most extreme cases.

In addition, the document suggests that yet more secondaries are likely to be targeted because their pupils fail to make enough progress - a term that has yet to be defined.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said: "When it comes to coasting schools, my challenge to every governing body will be: are you doing enough to raise standards?

"It may well be that there are some schools that think they have got higher results, but find out - when you look at value added, progress and the number of children who aren't getting qualifications - that there is complacency."

The National Challenge scheme aims to support schools through a pound;400 million package, but many headteachers feel they have been unfairly singled out.

The Government uses a contextual value added (CVA) measure to judge whether schools are producing the results one might expect given pupils' prior achievements, gender, race and backgrounds.

Statutory guidance states that any school falling into the bottom quartile of CVA scores is considered to have "unacceptably low standards".

However, The TES analysed the CVA scores of all state secondaries not in the existing National Challenge scheme and found that 293 had fallen into the "unacceptably low" category every year since the measure was introduced in 2005.

Among the 293 were four grammar schools where as many as 98 per cent of pupils had achieved the Government's GCSE benchmark.

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