More schools threatened with closure

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The Independent Online

More secondary schools across England could be under threat after the Government said it would expand its hit list of underperforming schools despite a record year for overall GCSE results yesterday.

A total of 638 schools was warned last year that they could be closed or be turned into an academy – state-maintained independent schools set up with the help of outside sponsors – unless their GCSE results improved; last summer, fewer than 30 per cent of their pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including maths and English.

They are likely to be joined by more secondaries, after the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that any school that failed to reach that mark yesterday could be added to the National Challenge programme. Every school in England must reach that target by 2011, under plans announced by Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, in June.

However, those schools on the hitlist whose results improve this year will not be removed.

Headteachers of schools on the hitlist called the decision "ridiculous" yesterday.

Liam Nolan, who became the headteacher last year of Perry Beeches school in Birmingham, said results leapt from 21 per cent in 2007 to 51 per cent yesterday. "It is absolutely ridiculous that they are going to be sending me advisers in September. It is just adding another layer of bureaucracy. It is absurd that I have had to spend my time doing this when I should be spending time in the classroom."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools moving above and below the "arbitrary threshold" highlighted "the stupidity of putting a school's reputation at risk on the basis of a single year's results".