Half of academies still falling short

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More than 30 academies have failed to clear the minimum hurdle of getting 30 per cent of pupils to obtain five A* to C grade GCSE passes including maths and English.

The figures – in exam league tables covering A-levels and GCSEs published today – prompted the Schools Secretary Ed Balls to warn that he would not "go softly" on academies. Headteachers and governors of those academies failing to hit the target within the next two years could be removed from their posts, and a new governing body imposed.

At present the number of academies failing to reach the benchmark amounts to nearly half of those in the programme – 34 out of 73. The first privately-sponsored academies – the Unity Academy in Middlesbrough and Bexley Business school in south-east London, which were launched seven years ago – still fall short. Unity scores 18 per cent and Bexley 29 per cent.

In addition, the seven academies launched in 2005 have – on average – seen their GCSE results worsen since they were set up.

The figures prompted teachers' leaders to raise renewed doubts over the effectiveness of the entire programme. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "We don't need all this emphasis on new structures of education when we should just be concentrating on making sure every school gets the assistance it needs."

The Government produced figures to show that – despite the numbers failing to reach the benchmark – academies were on average improving at a faster rate than the rest of the sector. "They exist in areas with some of the toughest challenges and have not only outperformed their predecessor schools but as a group have also seen improvements above the national average," Mr Balls said.

However, he added: "There is no intention to go softly, softly on academies. We have the powers to intervene and we will use them if necessary." He also said there was still "a culture of excuse" operating in some schools.