Schools told 'improve or be closed'

A HOST of “failing schools” in Suffolk and Essex will be told to improve or face being closed down.

A HOST of “failing schools” in Suffolk and Essex will be told to improve or face being closed down.

Under the Government's £400m drive to raise standards of education, Children's Secretary Ed Balls is doubling the cash available for the 638 secondary schools in England where more than 70% of teenagers fail to get five C grades in their GCSEs.

The "National Challenge" initiative will also see an expansion of the controversial academies programme, with up to 313 of the privately-sponsored schools set to be open by 2010.

Local authorities will be given a 50-day deadline to come up with a rescue plan for each of the schools on the Government's hit list.

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In Suffolk, The Denes High School in Lowestoft, Chantry High School in Ipswich, Castle Manor Business and Enterprise College in Haverhill and Holywells High School in Ipswich all fall below the threshold of 30% of pupils achieving five C grades.

In Essex, Thomas Lord Audley School, Sir Charles Lucas Arts College, Alderman Blaxill School, all Colchester, and Bishop's Park College and Colbayns High School, both in Clacton, are on the hitlist.

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The Government's target is for no state school to have fewer than 30% of their pupils gaining five C grades in subjects including maths and English by 2011.

Councils will be expected to draw up their plans for dealing with these failing schools.

They could set up an academy, sponsored and run by a private business figure, college or church group, or a new "super-trust''.

Mr Balls said: "I think we've shown, in the case of the academies programme, that schools that have been stuck with low results for a long period of time, a change of governance, a new partner - a university or a business - often a change of head, a new injection of funds, can really change aspirations and get the school on to a different track.

"The fact is - and this, I think, proves that you can break the link between poverty and attainment - that academies in the last few years have been taking intakes from more deprived areas, a move deprived intake than their area would suggest, and have faster rises in results than the average.

"I want to have more of that. So in the end, if it's the right thing to do, yes, we'll close the school, we start again as an academy or a trust with a change of governance, with a new partner.''

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