Hit squads miss target

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Replacing governors with salaried management teams is not a reliable fix for struggling schools
Replacing governors with salaried management teams is not a reliable fix for struggling schools

Rescue teams of managers which are to be sent in to underperforming schools have succeeded only one in three times they have been tried, The TES can reveal.

Ministers this week said that "interim executive boards" would be one of the main weapons in a crackdown on 638 secondaries with exam results that are below target.

The Government plans to legislate to force local authorities to appoint interim executive boards as a matter of urgency. These are made up of small teams of professional managers who replace a school's governing body.

Eventually, ministers want to model all schools' governing bodies on the small boards, whose members are often hand-picked from the world of business and management. A spokesman said they "can put schools back on track rapidly - with really fast improvements."

But an analysis by The TES suggests that the 76 interim executive boards appointed for state schools in England over the past five years have had a low success rate.

There were only nine schools whose results, by the Government's own measures, had improved sufficiently for the interim board to restore control to governors. Six others showed slow improvement.

Ten schools were classified as still struggling, seven are being closed and 17 are being replaced. Of these underperforming schools, 11 had been classified as inadequate by inspectors, and 15 appeared on the Government's hit-list because fewer than 30 per cent of pupils gained five good GCSEs.

For the remaining 27 schools, two of which had boards imposed this week, it was too early to tell whether they were successful.

The boards are one solution proposed by the National Challenge, the Government's pound;400 million scheme to improve schools it regards as struggling to succeed.

It also plans to replace many of the schools with academies. Yet academies are more likely than an average secondary to be considered "failing": 26 are on the hit-list.

Judith Bennett, chair of the National Governors' Association, said interim boards had not delivered. "I can't see a convincing case for them being the answer to schools in challenging circumstances, let alone being a model for governance nationwide," she said.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families disputed The TES findings. It said that when a struggling school is closed and replaced with an academy it should be seen as a success, as should a school taken out of special measures but still rated inadequate.

A toolkit published for schools and local authorities this week said the duties of executive boards should now include helping a school to become an academy or to join a federation - not a stated duty when they were set up in 2002.

National Challenge, pages 6-7

Lean, mean governors, page 12

Leading article, page 28.

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