SCHOOLS that fail their inspections are likely to close if there are places for their pupils within travelling distance.
New measures to be put in place by ministers from this autumn to speed up improvement in failing schools will require local authorities to set targets for when institutions will be given a clear bill of health.
Where failing schools are in areas that already have surplus places, local education authorities will have to justify keeping them open.
The new procedures will provide an extended role for the Office for Standards in Education, which will be able to provide guidance on schools' action plans and it will be responsible for judging whether local authorities are setting realistic improvement targets. Advice will also be provided by the Department for Education and Employment.
In cases where schools do not make satisfactory progress in 18 months, local education authorities will have to provide an explanation to David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary. They will expected to work out how to tackle the school's problems.
The more strict timetable for turning schools around is likely to result in local authorities encouraging governing bodies to use the fast-track procedures for dealing with weak teachers. Schools that stay longest on the failing list tend to be those where the quality of teaching is judged to be inadequate.
The tougher deadlines for local education authorities are intended to demonstrate that the extra powers to intervene in schools will be closely monitored by ministers and OFSTED.