Hundreds of failing schools face being closed down or replaced with more privately-backed academies under a £400 million drive to raise standards of education, it was announced today.
jChildren's Secretary Ed Balls is doubling the cash available for the 638 secondary schools in England where more than 70% of teenagers fail to get five C grades in their GCSEs.
The "National Challenge" initiative will also see an expansion of the controversial academies programme, with up to 313 of the privately-sponsored schools set to be open by 2010.
Local authorities will be given a 50-day deadline to come up with a rescue plan for each of the schools on the Government's hit list.
But teachers warned that the plan must not set out to "name and shame" schools doing their best in tough areas.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "If Ed Balls is to provide meaningful support to the 638 secondary schools he has identified he has to lift the threat of school closure for failing to meet arbitrary targets.
"No headteacher or teacher mindful of their career will join a National Challenge school if they think it will be closed and turned into an academy in the following year."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "If the National Challenge does what it says on the tin - namely support these schools with increased resources, targeted assistance and, crucially, the brokering of local solutions between schools and local authorities - it has ATL's support.
"But if the National Challenge turns out to be more naming and shaming, a disgrace and failure of a policy, it will not improve school standards and the chances of the children in those schools."
The Government's target is for no state school to have fewer than 30% of their pupils gaining five C grades in subjects including maths and English by 2011.
In 1997, there were more than 1,600 such schools and now there are 638 but some comprehensives will have to see improve at double their current rate of progress if they are to meet the target.
Ministers have already promised that £200 million will be spent on the National Challenge scheme and Mr Balls will announce today that this is to be increased to £400 million.
Councils will be expected to draw up their plans for dealing with these failing schools.
They could set up an academy, sponsored and run by a private business figure, college or church group, or a new "super-trust".
This involves struggling schools being taken over by successful schools nearby and forming a partnership with a university or business.
Mr Balls said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I think we've shown, in the case of the academies programme, that schools that have been stuck with low results for a long period of time, a change of governance, a new partner - a university or a business - often a change of head, a new injection of funds, can really change aspirations and get the school on to a different track.
"The fact is - and this, I think, proves that you can break the link between poverty and attainment - that academies in the last few years have been taking intakes from more deprived areas, a move deprived intake than their area would suggest, and have faster rises in results than the average.
"I want to have more of that. So in the end, if it's the right thing to do, yes, we'll close the school, we start again as an academy or a trust with a change of governance, with a new partner."Reuse content