Failing schools 'should be closed and pupils moved elsewhere'

Children in failing schools would do better if the schools were closed and their pupils moved elsewhere, research suggests.

Children from poor parts of New Orleans who were evacuated to new schools after Hurricane Katrina performed better in their exams than had been predicted, a study found. Indeed, the longer they stayed away from the city, the better their achievements.

But the research, by Bruce Sacerdote, of Dartmouth College, Devon, published in the journal Research In Public Policy, may apply to Britain's education system. It seems to suggest that closing down a failing school and simply opening a new academy on the same site with the same intake, as is planned in this country, might not work. The researchers conclude: "It seems that students who left New Orleans for good benefited the most."

It took children a year to make up the ground lost when their schools closed immediately after the hurricane. Those who stayed away for two years made substantial progress. The worst-performing students received more help with education once they left the poorly performing Louisiana state system because the help did not have to be spread so thinly among so many.

"The experience of Katrina evacuees shows that leaving a very poor school system and entering a more typical school district significantly raised academic standards for those students," researchers said. "These gains were generated without causing any harm to students in the receiving schools."