Blunkett wins powers to close failing schools

The Secretary of State for Education will be given new powers to close failing schools in an education Bill to be included in this week's Queen's Speech.

At present local authorities have the responsibility for closing bad schools: the Government cannot tell them to take action. David Blunkett, the new Secretary of State for Education, believes that the Government's policy of closing the worst schools and giving them a fresh start with a new head and some new teachers is essential to his drive to raise standards. He is expected either to take powers to intervene directly to close a school, in consultation with a local authority, or to give himself the power to ensure that local authorities take action. Under existing legislation, the Government can send hit-squads of experts into schools which fail to produce satisfactory plans for improvement. The squad has to decide whether the school can be turned round or should close. In practice, only one hit-squad has been appointed. Ministers are this week expected to make clear their belief that a number of failing schools should be closed and given a "fresh start" unless their progress improves rapidly.

Stephen Byers, the school- standards minister, yesterday spelt out the Government's concern after studying the history of 281 schools judged by inspectors to be failing. He believes that a number of these are not making enough progress. The schools are likely to be named within a fortnight. Mr Byers said: "I am shocked that the previous government had a policy of delaying for up to two years and still not taking action when failing schools were making no significant progress." Until the new measures are on the statute books, ministers will have to rely mainly on voluntary means for dealing with failing schools, though they have not ruled out using hit-squads. Mr Byers said: "Local education authorities have to recognise that they have a responsibility in this area and we will be looking to them to discharge their obligations. They should not be tolerating failing schools." Most schools judged to be failing or in need of "special measures" are eventually given a clean bill of health.

However, the Government wants to speed up the closure of the worst schools. It wants local authorities to close schools which show no signs of improvement and to open them with a new head and some new teachers and governors. One council, Hammersmith and Fulham, has already closed a school, renamed it the Phoenix and reopened it with a new head and some new teachers.

A report on failing schools was among Mr Byers's first requests on his arrival at the Department for Education last week. Such schools are monitored regularly by inspectors to see how much progress they are making.

The Government is expected to put in place a number of strategies to turn round failing schools. Heads of good schools will be asked to take over their less successful neighbours.

That has already happened in Calderdale, where Peter Clark temporarily took over the Ridings School after discipline broke down.

Ministers have also promised faster procedures to remove poor teachers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor