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Schools: Improve or close

PUBLISHED: 11:48 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 12:03 03 July 2010

DOZENS of East Anglian primary schools will be told to improve their results or face closure amid government plans to extend a controversial scheme to name and shame low performers.

DOZENS of East Anglian primary schools will be told to improve their results or face closure amid government plans to extend a controversial scheme to name and shame low performers.

Hard-pressed headteachers urged a rethink on extending the National Challenge scheme, which currently affects all secondaries where less than 30pc of pupils get five good GCSEs including English and maths.

But ministers are understood to be determined to shake up potentially thousands of primaries by setting a "floor target" that all schools must reach - or face intervention and eventual closure.

Although the target has not been revealed, it is believed it could be 65pc of pupils getting the benchmark level four or better in English and maths tests at age 11.

On last year's standard assessment test (Sats) results, it would mean at least 46 schools in the EDP area coming into the National Challenge - including 39 in Norfolk, which is one in every seven, three in Suffolk and four in Cambridgeshire.

The move has not been confirmed, but last night a Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: "We have always made it a key priority to improve schools.

"We believe that it's right to insist on certain minimum standards in the system, because that's what parents want."

When the government launched National Challenge last year, it hit more than 630 secondary schools, including eight in Norfolk, one in Lowestoft and one in Wisbech. This year it affects seven Norfolk schools and one in Lowestoft.

The schools were immediately dogged by the label "failing" after prime minister Gordon Brown used the word when launching the scheme.

Colin Collis, Norfolk secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (Nasuwt), said: "I think this will put extreme pressure on heads and prompt some teachers to leave.

"The real test is what will be in the small print. If this means proper recognition that some schools are more challenging and brings additional support, then that's okay.

"But it must not be simply another stick to beat schools with. Children do not always achieve the same results. There will always be a spread of results when children sit tests. But the government doesn't seem to mind what raw materials a school starts with and how well they've done with them."

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