1,400 primary schools warned over standards

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More than 1,400 primary schools were warned today they could be taken over by successful neighbouring schools if they fail to improve standards in the three R’s.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has written to every council in England giving them just three months to draw up individual action plans to improve performance in all the schools.

The schools, 1,472 in total, are where fewer than 55 per cent of pupils reach the required standard in English and maths tests for 11-year-olds.

In addition, he has singled out 12 authorities which have up to 15 per cent of schools failing to reach this target for at least four years.

Mr Balls refused to name the 12, but the worst performers in the primary school league tables this week were Sandwell, Newham, Bedford, Stoke on Trent, Slough, Suffolk, Southampton, Haringey, Derby City, Nottingham, Medway and Hackney.

The 12 were told to bring forward action plans for these schools by the end of January. If ministers are not satisfied with the proposals, they could send in their own advisers to turn the schools round, or insist they merge with or partner good schools.

The Government stressed yesterday that the number of schools failing to reach the target had fallen from 6,500 in 1997 to 1,472 today. However, the figure has risen this year from 1,359 in 2008.

In his letter to the 12, Mr Balls said: “I am concerned about the persistence of low attainment and the apparent lack of progress.

“It is no excuse to say most of our primary schools are doing really well but you would expect primary schools in that particular area of town not to be doing so well.”

Mr Balls also indicated a major shift in primary schooling by indicating that every school should have specialist maths, English and languages teachers in the next three to four years. Up until now, primary schools have relied on general class teachers to deliver the curriculum. Teaching languages to children from age seven will be compulsory in primary schools from September 2011.

He indicated that in smaller primaries it would be enough to access specialist teachers through a federation of neighbouring schools.