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Schools face tough new targets

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Schools are to face tougher achievement targets and there could be a shake-up of exams in a new White Paper

Schools are to be set tough new achievement targets and will face being taken over if they fail to meet them, a new Education White Paper is expected to say.

Secondary schools will be considered failing if less than 35% of their pupils get five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, and fewer students are making two levels of progress between the ages of 11 and 16 (Key Stages 3 and 4) than the national average.

The measure will replace a target introduced under the last Labour government for schools to have more than 30% of pupils achieving five C grades including the basics. Ministers are understood to believe that this target was too basic and a more nuanced one is needed.

In addition, primary schools are expected to be told that they will be below the floor if less than 60% of their pupils reach level 4 in English and maths and fewer youngsters make two levels of progress between ages five and 11 (Key Stages 1 and 2) than the national average. Any school that fails to meet the target will face intervention, such as being turned into an academy.

The move means that many more schools are likely to be identified as failing.

The new White Paper represents a major overhaul of the English schools system and is expected to lay out proposals covering teacher training, qualifications and assessment, inspections, league tables and funding in a bid to boost standards. Education Secretary Michael Gove said last week he wanted trainee teachers to spend more time in the classroom.

School leaders are also likely to be given unlimited time to scrutinise teachers, scrapping a rule that says they can be formally observed for only three hours a year and plans have also previously been mooted to scrap funding for teacher trainees who gain a third class degree.

Alongside an overhaul of teacher training, the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, is likely to contain sweeping reforms to qualifications. This could mean abandoning modular – so-called “bite-size” GCSEs in favour of linear exams taken after two years of study.

Reforms of qualifications would also pave the way for plans for an “English Baccalaureate”, which would reward pupils for achieving five good GCSEs in English, maths, science, foreign languages and a humanities subject. Students could also be marked on their spelling, punctuation and grammar in GCSE exams in the future and schools could be prevented from using vocational courses as “equivalent” qualifications to push themselves up the GCSE league tables.

The White Paper is also due to include plans to introduce a reading test for six-year-olds to check if they can read simple words like “cat” and “street”. And there is also expected to be proposals to streamline Ofsted inspections, reducing the number of categories schools are judged on to four.

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