Inspectors to get private blacklist of poor schools: Clamping down on failure: The White Paper on education proposes one of the biggest transfers of responsibility since the 1944 Act

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The Independent Online
SCHOOL inspectors will be provided with a private 'blacklist' of schools which the Department for Education believes are failing their pupils - a clear indication of ministers' desire to clamp down on persistent poor quality, writes Colin Hughes.

The White Paper recognises that competition for pupils will inevitably increase the danger of a 'sink' school accelerating into a rapid cycle of decline - and sets out to halt that degeneration.

'Children only have the chance of one school career; they should not be allowed to suffer from the long drawn out demise of a failing school,' the White Paper says.

In some cases the Funding Agency, local authority or Secretary of State may decide that the best option is to close the school as part of a rationalisation plan to reduce surplus places. In other cases, where inspectors conclude that a school's low standards are placing the proper education of its pupils 'at risk', the governors will be required to prepare a plan of action to remedy the school's faults, with a supporting commentary from the local authority.

The local authority will itself acquire new powers to appoint new governors to 'at risk' schools, and to resume control over the school's budget. It will have to provide the Secretary of State with an action plan for the school within eight weeks of the school being identified as 'at risk'.

If the governors and local authority cannot turn the school around in an academic year, the Secretary of State will transfer control of the school to an education association. If the minister does not think the action plan is adequate, he may transfer the school immediately.

Associations will be appointed by the minister and will usually comprise about five experienced staff, such as successful former head teachers. In effect, the school will become an opted out school, with the association as its governing body. An association may run more than one school in an area: it will be provided with the school's budget, and be required to improve the school's performance within a specified period. It may, if necessary, propose the closure of the school.

John Patten, the Secretary of State, said that his department already had a list of schools with poor inspection reports, which he will be providing to the new Chief Inspector of Schools.