Education Audit: The named and shamed, how the 'Blunkett 18' fared

Within three weeks of taking power in 1997, Labour shocked the teaching profession by disclosing the 18 schools it regarded as the worst in the country.

Within three weeks of taking power in 1997, Labour shocked the teaching profession by disclosing the 18 schools it regarded as the worst in the country.

The move by the former secretary of state for education, David Blunkett, was a calculated gamble to show that his department would not tread softly in its attempts to raise standards. But teachers' unions reacted angrily to the "naming and shaming" policy, claiming the adverse publicity would convince pupils they stood no chance of a decent education and thus increase truancy rates.

The exercise proved to be a one-off. Despite claims that Labour would continue to draw attention to inadequate schools, ministers never again resorted to public humiliation. The nearest they came was when Mr Blunkett announced in 2000 that he was giving all schools three years to get at least 15 per cent of pupils through their GCSEs with five A* to C grades, or face closure. Although that deadline is now up, ministers have retreated from the plan to a degree, saying that underperforming schools will not necessarily be shut down.

So did the original naming and shaming work? Six years on, four of the original 18 have closed and six have been given "fresh starts" - closed and reopened with a new name, new head and new staff. Of these six, four failed again and have been relaunched for a second time. Eight are as they were, with two still languishing near the foot of the exam results tables. All 14 that remain open have shown some improvement.

Teachers' unions continue to decry naming and shaming, arguing that many schools have been turned round by less drastic means. But the policy undoubtedly made teachers and education bosses strive to keep their schools off the list.

These are the stories of the "Blunkett 18":

¿ Handsworth Wood, Birmingham: a secondary school where one in 12 pupils was playing truant on any given day. It closed a year after appearing on the list - closure was already being considered by city councillors at the time.

¿ Kelsey Park, Bromley: a secondary school whose average sixth-former obtained the equivalent of less than one B grade at A-level in 1997. Ofsted says it has now improved, and last year 30 per cent of pupils obtained at least five top-grade GCSE passes for the first time.

¿ Ashburton High, Croydon: condemned by ministers for only getting 18 per cent of pupils through their GCSEs with five A* to C grades in 1997. This improved to 31 per cent last year.

¿ Ingram High, Croydon: a boys' school criticised when only one in four pupils achieved five top-grade GCSE passes. It was given a fresh start but ran into a row with the NUT when 12 teachers were threatened with dismissal for incompetence. It is now called Selhurst High School for Boys and has increasingly good GCSE results.

¿ Rams Episcopal, Hackney : the first primary school on the list, singled out because 60 per cent of its 11-year-olds failed to reach the required standard in English tests. It was closed after spending two years on Ofsted's list of failing schools, but given a fresh start and handed over to a private company, CfBT, to run. It became the first privatised school to close in 2000 after Hackney council decided it had still not shown sufficient improvement.

¿ Morningside, Hackney: originally on the list because only one in 10 of its 11-year-olds reached the required standard in maths tests. Ofsted now says it is an improving school, although standards are still low in relation to national averages.

¿ Southfields, Gravesend, Kent: the school came bottom of the first national exam league tables with only a handful of pupils getting five top-grade GCSE passes. The school, which opted out of council control under the Tory government, was said to be making reasonable progress but was closed after Labour abolished opt-out schools.

¿ Upbury Manor, Gillingham, Kent: singled out because only 7 per cent of pupils got five good GCSE passes. It is now a specialist arts college with 21 per cent of its pupils achieving the required standard.

¿ Lilian Bayliss School, Lambeth: Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, said recently he would "rather beg" than send his children to the school, even though it is the nearest comprehensive to his home. Last year only 6 per cent of its pupils got five top-grade GCSE passes, but this will increase to 17 per cent when the latest figures are published this month. Gary Philips, the school's head, directly attributes last year's poor performance to the naming and shaming. He claims that it discouraged parents from applying for places and lowered the ability of the 1997 intake, who sat their GCSEs in 2002.

¿ Our Lady of Fatima School, Liverpool: a former grant maintained school that failed its Ofsted inspection and was given a fresh start when opt-out status was abolished. It became Our Lady's High School and saw the percentage of pupils getting five good GCSE passes rise from 5 to 25 per cent. It is to be one of the new City Academies, which will be run by private sponsors.

¿ South Benwell, Newcastle: singled out because only one in five of its 11-year-olds reached the required standard in English and maths. Last year it was still ranked in the bottom 10 schools in the country but after appointing its third headteacher in three years, Ofsted says it is now improving at a faster rate than the national average.

¿ Blakelaw School, Newcastle: now on its second fresh start. Ninety per cent of its pupils were failing to obtain five top-grade GCSE passes in 1997 and it was closed. It reopened as Firfield school but was closed in 2002 after it failed to show any improvementand its new head resigned. Its second relaunch has seen it form a partnership with Newcastle University in an attempt to persuade more of its pupils to go into higher education.

¿ Abbey Farm Middle School, Norfolk: only one in 10 pupils reached the required English standard for 11-year-olds in 1997. Ofsted now claims it is "effective" for a school that has more than its fair share of pupils with special needs.

¿ Earl Marshall, Sheffield: its teachers were criticised in 1997 for adopting too relaxed an attitude to their pupils. It was given a fresh start and reopened as Fir Vale school. The relaunch saw the proportion of pupils getting five top-grade GCSEs rise from 8 per cent in 1998 to 25 per cent last year - making it one of the few truly successful fresh-start schools. .

¿ Dulwich High, Southwark: it was already a fresh-start school in 1997, having formerly been known as William Penn. It was relaunched again as the Charter School and now nearly 30 per cent of its pupils get five A* to C GCSE passes.

¿ Mostyn Gardens, Southwark: it was causing inspectors "serious concern" in 1997 and closed the following year.

¿ Lea Green Special School, Waltham Forest: taken off Ofsted's hit-list of failing schools in 1998 but was closed following a council reorganisation.

¿ St Mary of Angels, Westminster: less than half of its pupils reached the required standard in maths in 1997. Ofsted now says that it is "very effective" in dealing with 66 per cent of new pupils who do not speak English at home.

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