Plans to ratchet up the minimum targets in literacy and numeracy for primary schools are being considered by ministers.
From next year, they will be expected to get 85 per cent of their pupils to reach the required standard in English and maths national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds - instead of 60 per cent as at present.
The new target will mean thousands of schools will miss out on the target if they fail to improve over the next 18 months.
However, those that can show they are making progress from a low base - because of the disadvantaged area they serve - will be spared from get tough measures such being forced to become an academy and embrace a new sponsor.
The plans are out for consultation at the moment - with the Government’s findings expected to be announced soon.
Louis Coiffait, head of research at the Pearson Think Tank, set up by the education company, warned that the new moves would increase the likelihood of schools “teaching to the test” and devoting more time and energy to borderline candidates within a whisker of making the target.
He told a conference organised by the Westminster Education Forum: “With such a high bar there are going to be many, many pupils who won’t even come close to that target - so what is going to happen to them?”