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We are delighted that the Conservatives' education spokesman has leapt to the defence of secondary schools on the Government's National Challenge hit list.

It is indeed damaging and misleading to brand a school a failure simply because fewer than 30 per cent of its pupils get five A* to C grades at GCSE, including English and maths.

But Conservative politicians have also fallen into that trap. Earlier this year one Tory MP - who has repeatedly used the phrase "failing schools" - said it was easy to identify "the areas of greatest failure" in education.

"There are more than 630 schools across England which can't even generate five decent GCSE passes for a third of their students," he said. "It's appalling that you can educate children for 11 years, and then have schools where more than two-thirds of children cannot secure a basic portfolio of qualifications."

The appalled MP was, of course, Michael Gove.

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