NINETEEN schools will be celebrating today after improved GCSE results won them a reprieve from closure.
For the first time in four years, the 19 English secondaries got at least 15 per cent of their pupils to achieve five good GCSE passes - saving them from Fresh Start, the Government's flagship policy for relaunching struggling schools.
The schools were among 68 under threat of closure following Education Secretary David Blunkett's decision in March to target every school which failed to score at least 15 per cent for three consecutive years up to 2003. However, 39 secondaries could still face a Fresh Start after failing to reach the crucial 15 per cent for the past four years, according to English school performance tables published this week.
Their publication follows the revamp of the Fresh Start scheme now to be closely controlled by ministers rather than left to councils. All 25 existing Fresh Start schools are preparing to receive the first instalment of up to pound;300,000 under the revised scheme. Heads can choose how to spend it - including aying higher salaries to attract and retain good teachers. In order to get the funding, heads must have detailed improvement plans approved by the Department for Education and Employment and the Office for Standards in Education.
Gillingham Community College, which has one of the worst GCSE results in England, is to close at the end of the school year. The remaining nine schools of 68 under threat no longer appear in the tables as they have closed or been renamed.
But five more schools could now close after this summer's results gave them three consecutive low scores. They include Phoenix high in Hammersmith and Fulham - the London school on which the BBC drama Hope and Glory is based. This year, 12 per cent of its pupils achieved top-grade GCSEs, up from 4 per cent last year.
The secondary school tables show that schools in England are almost certain to reach the Government target of a half of pupils gaining five or more top-grade GCSEs by 2002. This year, 49.2 per cent did so.
Results tables pull-out in Jobs section