What the teachers say

12th June 1998 at 01:00
Failing schools will be closed or given a fresh start if they don't show significant improvement within two years, Education Secretary David Blunkett announced last week.

From September, powers in the School Standards and Framework Bill will allow Mr Blunkett to impose closure. Of the 434 schools deemed to be failing, 74 have been on the list for more than two years - but most are likely to be removed in the next few months.

John McKee, head of middle school, Durham Johnston school, Durham: "The policy is far too inflexible and takes no account of factors beyond the control of the school. The school may be in a run-down area where its main problem is the pupil and parental perception of the importance of education.

"To turn a school around needs the long-term combined efforts of the school and the education authority.

"Fresh start is far too drastic a measure. You need the right balance between pressure and support. Applying a blanket time limit of two years is simply pressure. They need to look at where the support is coming from."

Brian Conway, design and technology teacher at Copthall school, north London: "The problem with this fixed time limit is that it will create a rat run as good teachers leave failing schools.

"To turn a school around you need the good staff to stay. Good teachers would probably give the school a few months but leave if it looks like it will be closed, contributing to the failure.

"Some schools will be turned around in two years, others won't. But having this guillotine hanging over heads will not help them."

Chris Lacey, deputy head, Homewood school, Tenterden, Kent: "Obviously schools fail but sometimes that is because of the area they are in. Solving management problems will do nothing for an area's social and economic difficulties.

"There is evidence that it takes at least five years to change the ethos of a school. A school is like a great liner, it takes a lot longer than you'd expect to change direction.

"But like many quick fixes I'm not sure it will work."

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