League tables reveal scale of the standards gap in schools

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The Independent Online
THE TRUE SCALE of under-achievement among the most disadvantaged pupils is revealed today by government league tables showing that at more than 50 schools one in five pupils is leaving without any exam passes.

At Merrywood School in Bristol, 39 per cent of pupils left this summer without a single qualification. For the first time, the tables give the proportion of pupils leaving each school at the age of 16 without a GCSE or the vocational equivalent. Nationally, 35,000 pupils are leaving without qualifications, about 6 per cent of the total. The Department for Education said the number of pupils leaving without qualifications had fallen this year by 3000.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "It is very difficult for individual schools to solve a problem which may be more a matter for the police or social services.

"Because of league tables, schools face public criticism but these pupils rarely start out by being disaffected with school. They are usually already disaffected with life."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the tables showed "a tale of two cities" with schools at the top doing better and better while a stubborn tail of under-achievement remained. "This is the result of the competitive market in schools where heads are seeking to recruit the best pupils."

The bottom school at GCSE is Gillingham Community College in Medway where no pupil scored five or more top grades. The council said yesterday that the school was to close in 2001 and pounds 100,000 would be spent to raise standards and transfer pupils.

Biggest gains, page 4;

Leading article, Review page 3; Performance tables, inside Review