Shephard defends inspection system

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Three quarters of failing schools are making progress towards recovery, Gillian Shephard will announce today, writes Fran Abrams.

The Secretary of State for Education will tell leading educationalists from 20 countries that of the first 35 schools found to be failing under England's newly privatised inspection service 26 have made significant progress.

Naming the first secondary school to be taken off the "failing" list - Northicote, Wolverhampton - she will say the system is working well. Crook Primary School, in County Durham, and Brookside Special School, near Derby, have already been given a clean bill of health.

Speaking to delegates from the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mrs Shephard says the reform of school inspection has made Britain a world leader in educational practice. Publishing a paper on improving failing schools, Mrs Shephard says all the 35 failing schools revisited by inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education have made progress. However, in nine cases progress is limited, while in 11 cases it is reasonable and in 12 it is good.

"The inspection system is giving schools the information they need to raise their standards," she will tell delegates.