Quarter of a million children in failing secondary schools, says new figures

Exam results for England’s secondary schools revealed that 312 schools had fewer than 40 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSE passes

More than a quarter of a million children are being taught in schools which failed to meet the Government’s minimum GCSE targets this year, according to newly-published official figures. 

Exam results for England’s secondary schools revealed that 312 schools had fewer than 40 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSE passes, including English and maths. A further 17 schools failed a new performance measure, due to be introduced this summer. 

This figure is almost identical to last year’s, when 330 schools failed to meet the target, but is more than twice the number in 2013 when only 154 fell short.

The dramatic rise follows a Government clamp down which aimed to prevent schools “gaming” the system by entering pupils for multiple resits until they achieved the C grade required for the target.

Schools that are judged to be underperforming face intervention, such as being turned into an academy or given a new sponsor. Three free schools – a key element of Conservative education reforms – failed to meet the target this year.

A total of 188 underperforming schools were academies, while 50 are council-run, 45 are foundation schools, 14 are voluntary-aided and the others include university technical colleges, studio schools and further education colleges for to 14- to 16-year-olds.

In total, 250,955 youngsters are being taught in underperforming state secondaries – around 7.3 per cent of secondary pupils, the data reveals. This is down from last year, when the figure was 274,351.

There was also a marked difference between the performance of disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier classmates, with just 36.7 per cent of poorer pupils getting five good GCSEs including maths and English, compared to 64.7 per cent of wealthier students.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Union of Head Teachers, said: “There has been so much change that the national statistics generated by the Government are increasingly dubious.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “Through our focus on delivering educational excellence... we will tackle those pockets of persistent under-performance so every child fulfils  their potential.”

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