SCHOOLS in bottom-of-the-league authorities seem doomed to prop up the table, despite all their efforts. Hull has had the ignominy of being labelled the worst in the country for four years, writes Julie Henry.
Joan Taylor, the city's education director, threw in the towel earlier this year, worn down by a campaign to get her out after last year's results.
Despite a 3 per cent increase in the crucial proportion of five A* to C grades this summer - five times the national rate of improvement - Hull is likely to stay at the foot of the table for the fifth year running. Just over 27 per cent of pupils gained top passes this year. Thirteen of the city's 16 schools improved their performance.
At the joint worst-performing school in the country, Kingswood High, the five A* to C score jumped from 2.7 per cent to 18 per cent. A total of pound;3,100 was paid out last week to the 31 top performers after an earlier promise by a local company to reward students with pound;100 each.
Kingswood is one of the fresh-start schools that has taken a step forward. Other fresh-starters, such as Leicester's New College, also saw an increase in five A* to C figures.
Islington, where private firm Cambridge Education Associates is faced with the challenge of getting the borough out of the bottom three, improved the five A* to C results by 1.2 per cent to 27.7 per cent.
But on the basis of the provisional figures, the London borough has dropped a place to second bottom of the league. Knowsley, which was in that position last year, has improved by 3 percentage points to 28 per cent.
Low-ranking LEAs will have a tough job reaching targets for 2004. This year's record-breaking improvements will have to be beaten year-on-year to achieve the minimum 38 per cent five A* to C grades.