SECONDARY schools will have to set - and publish - three attainment targets for pupil performance at 16 by the end of this year.
School standards minister Stephen Byers, announcing the move at this week's Council for Local Education Authorities annual conference in Buxton, said it would provide a process for judging the attainments of individual schools.
"We are doing this because target-setting has been shown to help raise standards of pupil performance," he said. "There are some local authorities already doing it and they have shown dramatic levels of improvement. Newham is an excellent example of an authority which has done precisely that."
Governing bodies will have to set targets by December 31 for the percentage of pupils achieving five A-C grades at GCSE, at least one GCSE pass and the school's average points score per pupil for those sitting exams in 2000. They will have to publish these in their annual report alongside the actual results attained.
Mr Byers said: "We felt it was particularly important that every school should have a target set for at least one qualification being achieved so no youngster is written off and everyone is given the opportunity to achieve at least one qualification after 11 years of statutory education." Last year 48,000 pupils left school without a formal qualification.
Education authorities will be required to set their own area targets in their education development plan, having regard to individual schools' targets and to the national targets to be announced next month.
Those national targets will prove the key to the whole process - setting the agenda for improvement for education authorities and secondary schools in the same way national key stage 2 targets have for primaries.
Mr Byers promised extra funding and guidance for individual schools. Secondaries have suffered declining funding per pupil ever since 1991.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have written to all our secondary members advising them not to agree their targets with local authorities. We regard that as bureaucracy gone mad - it's quite inappropriate. "