The country's 50 worst-performing schools could be publicly "named and shamed" should new powers be granted to Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, under the proposed Education Bill, teachers' unions warned this week.
The new bill, Labour's 10th schools bill since coming to power in 1997, will give Mr Balls extra powers, alongside those already granted to him in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act, to step in where a school's standards are "unacceptably low".
Mr Balls said he will target 50 of the worst-performing 270 schools, below the Government's benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C grades including English and maths and that have yet to effect structural changes.
Mr Balls said earlier in the week: "To the small number of areas where local councils are dragging their feet, my message is clear: there is no longer any excuse for inaction.
"This week, I am demanding action in the 50 of the 270 schools below our benchmark, where turnaround plans, like an academy or a formal partnership with a high-performing local school, have still not been agreed."
Sources close to Mr Balls said it would not be their intention to name the schools or the local authorities achieving the lowest levels.
But the information is publicly accessible, particularly in local newspapers, which can "draw their own conclusions", says the NUT.
John Bangs, the union's head of education, said: "It will open the door to the naming and shaming that took place in 1997 (the New Labour Government). It demoralises the school community and drives away parents who could be supporting the school and the teachers who could make a difference."
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the possibility of schools being named and shamed would not be helpful.
John Dunford, ASCL general secretary, said: "All of the schools are in the National Challenge and measures are in place for every school to raise their GCSE achievement to 30 per cent by 2011.
"The Government is prejudging the result of its own policies in those schools 18 months in advance of its own deadline. It should stick to its original timescale and support those extremely challenging schools."
The power to intervene is just one of a raft of measures in the new Education Bill announced in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.
The bill will also look to strengthen parent involvement in schools, with pupil and parent guarantees setting out what parents can expect from their child's school and a means of redress if it is not met. Teachers fear the legislation could lead to a "whingers' charter", with schools facing court action.
A new primary curriculum, as set out by Sir Jim Rose, is also included in the bill, while sex education for pupils who are 15 and older will be made compulsory for the first time. It will also introduce a new licence to practise for teachers, linked to the amount of continuing professional development entitled to teachers.
The bill has been criticised by opposition parties and teachers' unions. Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary, called it a "damp squib".
THE EDUCATION BILL
- Pupil and parent guarantees
- Strengthen home-school agreements
- Primary curriculum reform
- Compulsory sex education
- School report cards
- New powers for the Schools Secretary to intervene
- Licence to practise for teachers
- Work-related courses and vocational experience to be made available.