Education: Blunkett says `naming and shaming' bad schools works

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The Independent Online
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday that `naming and shaming' poor schools works and he was prepared to do it again. Judith Judd, Education Editor, examines mixed reactions to his announcement.

Of the 18 schools named by the Government last May because they were not improving quickly enough, one has now been taken off the list of those labelled failing by inspectors and three more are likely to be removed by Christmas.

The rest remain in "special measures" - the regime of intensive monitoring for schools found to be failing - but most are showing reasonable signs of improvement. Almost half the improved schools have new head teachers.

The closure of one school, Handsworth Wood School for Boys in Birmingham, already scheduled by the local authority, will go ahead. Two others, Mostyn Gardens primary in Lambeth, south London, which will have a new head in January, and Selhurst High in Croydon, where the authority is trying to dismiss 15 teachers, are still causing serious concern.

Local authorities are reviewing the viability of two schools: Dulwich High in Southwark and Earl Marshal in Sheffield.

Mr Blunkett dismissed the reaction from teachers' unions. "We are talking about giving people simple basic facts about the state of education at their children's schools. It is a moral matter. Some people know about their children's schools and some don't. If they know, they remove their children."

Schools were on the list he said because they had been in special measures for at least two years and were being allowed to drift. "Without our action, none of the schools would have improved at the rate which I have described. Otherwise they would already have been doing so."

Ministers spent pounds 90,000 sending consultants into the 18 schools. Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, said: "Today we can celebrate success and name and acclaim these schools that had drifted into long-term failure but which have now turned themselves round."

One school which has improved dramatically said the policy had played little part in the changes. Another welcomed the intervention.

Jean Millham, head of Morningside primary school in Hackney, east London, which has improved so much that it has been given a clean bill of health, said she would never forgive the Government for upsetting children at the school on the day it published the list. The school had been improving long before the naming and shaming happened. "It just knocked everyone back and hurt parents, children and teachers. I hope they will learn this is not the way to do it," she said.

Extra money and expert advice had simply helped to speed up a programme which was already in place, Ms Millham said.

However, Russ Wallace, head of Blakelaw school in Newcastle, said the school had been spurred into action and would reopen with a new name and refurbished buildings next September under the Government's "fresh start" proposals.

William Atkinson, head of the Phoenix School given a fresh start by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and sent to Blakelaw by the Government, "has been a driving force in the work we have done", Mr Wallace said.

The school had introduced new literacy programmes and had formed links with well-known companies to design a curriculum relevant to the world of work. There may be some staff changes. Mr Wallace, who is on a temporary contract, will himself be applying for a job.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Today's announcement is a shallow attempt to give credence to a political stunt by the Government. The very fact that other failing schools which were not named and shamed are also making progress demonstrates that the Government has been engaged in a highly dubious exercise."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, called on ministers to drop the naming and shaming policy, saying, "It seriously undermined support from teachers for the new government's policies and promoted anger rather than confidence."

Progress report

School/LEA Comment

Coming out of special measures

1. Morningside (primary)

Hackney Off special measures

2. Abbey Farm (Middle)

Norfolk Off next term

3. Lea Green (special)

Waltham Forest Likely to be off next term

4. Lilian Baylis (secondary)

Lambeth Likely to be off next term

Fresh start and other major developments

5. Blakelaw (Secondary)

Newcastle Proposed fresh start Sept 98

6. Handsworth Wood Boys (Secondary)

Birmingham School will close August 98

7. South Benwell (Primary)

Newcastle New head in place

8. Our Lady of Fatima (Secondary)

(GM) Liverpool New head in place

Reasonable progress

9. Kelsey Park (Secondary)

(GM) Bromley Quality improved.

10. Ashburton (Secondary)

Croydon Quality improved. New head

11. St Mary of the Angels (Primary)

Westminster Quality improving

12. Upbury Manor (Secondary)

Kent 15 teachers left

13. Southfields (Secondary)

(GM) Kent Quality improving.

Sec of State to appoint

additional governors

14. Rams Episcopal (Primary)

Hackney Quality improving

LEA considering viability

15. Dulwich High (Secondary)

Southwark Long-term viability in doubt

16. Earl Marshal (Secondary)

Sheffield Review by end of the year

Serious concerns

17. Mostyn Gardens (Primary)

Lambeth New head and deputy to start

18. Selhurst High (Secondary)

Croydon Competency procedures against 15 teachers ongoing