Failing heads face the sack

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The Independent Online
FAILING schools which do not improve within two years will be closed and the head and governors sacked. Most will re-open under new management, the Government said yesterday.

Seventy-four schools are still on the failing list after two years and Ministers are predicting that around 25 will have to close in September. The Government's decision comes at a time when the percentage of schools failed by inspectors is rising sharply.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, warned that he would use new powers in legislation before Parliament to close schools or to insist that they close and reopen with a new head, governors and staff. The new heads will decide which staff they wish to keep. All could be sacked, Mr Blunkett said.

The 74 schools are not being named because the new closure policy replaces that of "naming and shaming" schools into improvement announced just a year ago. Blakelaw school in Newcastle upon Tyne has already been given a fresh start and Mr Blunkett announced yesterday that Earl Marshal School in Sheffield will also close and reopen in September.

He said: "This is part of our original programme to ensure that no child is left languishing in a school which is failing. It is imperative to give them the kind of education which they deserve and which we would want for our children."

Overall, nearly 500 schools educating 140,000 children are at present failing.

Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, blamed local authorities for not acting quickly enough to turn round schools: 40 per cent of secondary schools inspected last year were causing serious concern when they were first inspected four years earlier.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Threats such as placing a rigid two-year guillotine on schools under special measures will drive away the best staff and not attract new staff."