Up to 400 schools could be tagged as “underperforming” and will face being taken over if they fail to meet tough new achievement targets set out in Wednesday’s Education White Paper.
Secondary schools will be subject to intense scrutiny 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.
Education Secretary Michael Gove would not be drawn on the precise number of schools likely to be affected by the measure, which would mean many more schools are likely to be identified as failing.
“I don’t think it’s right that you can have a school where two-thirds of children aren’t getting five basic GCSEs,” he said.
“Our approach is going to be more sophisticated than the last government’s. If a school has a really tough intake but it is still making tremendous progress, then we won’t be classifying it as underperforming. We will recognise the unique circumstances of every school.”
Where schools are found to fall below standard, “outstanding headteachers” would be brought in to help “raise the bar on achievement”.
But Mr Gove said schools would not be categorised as “failing”, insisting they would simply be termed “underperforming”.
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.
As part of the new plans, former troops will be encouraged to retrain as teachers.
“I can’t think of anything better than getting people who know all about self-discipline, teamwork and a sense of pride into our schools to complement the huge numbers of great teachers we have there at the moment,” Mr Gove said.