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Almost one in 10 secondary schools, collectively teaching more than 200,000 children, are under-performing, according to Government figures


Statistics show that nearly 300 secondaries in England are falling below a new Government floor target that measures pupils’ progress and achievement over eight GCSE subjects.

A Press Association analysis of the Department for Education’s (DfE) data reveals huge differences in children’s access to a good secondary school, an issue that is likely to fuel fresh debate about under-performance in some parts of the country.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the figures, based on last summer’s GCSE results, showed that the hard work of teachers and pupils is leading to higher standards.

Headteachers warned that the results had been achieved “against a national backdrop of a funding and recruitment crisis”.

For the first time this year, schools have not been judged on the proportion of pupils scoring at least five C grades at GCSE, including in English and maths.

Instead, ministers have introduced a new headline measure called “Progress 8”. This looks at the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.

It compares pupils’ results with the achievements of other youngsters with the same prior attainment, and measures performance across eight qualifications.

The Government has argued that this measure is fairer because it takes students’ previous achievement into account, and recognises the results of all youngsters, not just those on the border of C and D grades.

Overall, 282 secondaries, educating 206,991 children, have fallen under the Government’s floor standard based on this new measure. This is around 9.3% of secondaries.

Schools that are considered under-performing face intervention, and could be taken over.

In 2015, under the old five A*-C system, 329 schools (11%) were below the target.

The DfE does not publish a list of schools falling below the floor standard, but according to the Press Association’s analysis, 107 of those that failed to meet the threshold this year are sponsored academies, 34 are schools that have converted into academies, 51 are council run and seven are mainstream free schools – a key plank of Conservative education reforms.

The rest are other types of mainstream state schools such as colleges that cater to GCSE students.

The analysis also shows that Knowsley in the north west had the highest proportion of under-performing schools – none of its six secondaries reached the new threshold. Meanwhile, there were 46 areas where all schools were above the floor target.

Mr Gibb said: “Today’s figures confirm that the hard work of teachers and pupils across the country is leading to higher standards, and for that they should be congratulated.

“As well as confirming that the number of young people taking GCSEs in core academic subjects is rising, today’s figures show the attainment gap between disadvantaged and all other pupils has now narrowed by 7% since 2011.”

He added there are now nearly 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools than in 2010, and the Progress 8 measure will help more children to achieve their potential.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Congratulations to schools and pupils on these results, which have been achieved against a national backdrop of a funding and recruitment crisis.

“Progress 8 is a fairer measure of school performance than the old measure of the proportion of pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE including English and maths.

“It better reflects the fact that children start their secondary school education at different levels of academic ability and it aims to judge schools on the progress that all their pupils make, rather than an arbitrary measure of GCSE attainment.

“However, Progress 8 has teething problems, and must be treated with some caution. Its biggest weakness is that the score of a school is disproportionately affected by as few as one or two pupils recording anomalous results.

“We are aware of cases where Progress 8 scores have been badly affected by the fact that a very small number of vulnerable children have missed exams as a result of illnesses or other personal crises.”

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