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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 17:58 GMT
League tables spark funding row
Bacon's College
Bacon's College: One of the most improved
Teachers' unions say the improvements in performance shown by specialist schools in this year's league tables could be achieved by all, given the same sort of extra funding.

This year's school-by-school GCSE results confirm that specialist schools in England are generally outperforming other comprehensives.

Who would not expect Manchester United to do better than their neighbours Oldham Athletic?

Teachers' leader Nigel de Gruchy
Just over half the students at the 393 schools given specialist status by the autumn of 1999 scored top GCSE grades this year.

That was 10 points more than those in all other comprehensive and modern schools.

The government says its targeting of deprived areas is paying off - but teachers' unions say it risks widening the gap between the best and the worst.

Click here for a table of the most improved schools
Click here for the full school tables

To become specialists, schools have to raise 50,000 in sponsorship and put in a bid to the Department for Education showing how they intend to raise standards.

Targets to meet

If they succeed, they get 100,000 and another 123 per pupil for four years - whereupon they can apply to renew their specialist status.

Of the 109 schools which have most improved their performance since 1997, 26 are specialists - far more than their proportion among schools as a whole.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said: "It is wholly unsurprising that specialist schools and others given additional resources are improving their results at a faster rate.

"Who would not expect Manchester United to do better than their neighbours Oldham Athletic?"

The most improved school is an arts specialist - The St Marylebone CofE School in central London, a girls' comprehensive.

Its score of the top, A*-C grades, has gone from 39% of its pupils achieving them in 1997 to 89% this year - a 50 points improvement.

The head teacher, Elizabeth Phillips, aims for excellence - but attacks the annual performance tables as promoting a sort of "academic apartheid".

More on the way

There are now 550 schools specialising in the arts, technology, languages or sport.

David Blunkett
"Our policies are working," says the education secretary
More than a third are in disadvantaged inner city areas and have a relatively high proportion - 33% - of pupils entitled to free school meals.

The government is committed to having 1,000 of them by 2004 - almost a third of all secondary schools.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, also highlighted improved results at institutions which have had extra money under the Excellence in Cities programme.

Mr Blunkett said some of the schools that had improved the most were to be found in deprived areas of cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Sheffield.

Poor performers under scrutiny

He confirmed he would consider closing about 100 schools in which fewer than 15% of the students are getting five A*-Cs if they do not improve over three years, as he announced in March.

He said such low performance was unacceptable and promised they would be given extra resources and help to improve.

He is confident most will raise their standards - pointing out that more than six hundred failing schools have been turned round since he came to office.

Unions want more for all

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Phil Willis, said the tables "expose the failure of government policy to bridge the growing divide between high achieving and low achieving schools."

Phil Willis
Phil Willis: "New underclass created"
"By measuring all schools against simplistic national targets based on middle class expectations it was inevitable that the gap would widen," he said.

"The demoralisation of pupils, their parents and their teachers over their constant exposure to failure and criticism from the government has created a new educational underclass."

The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said: "Until all secondary schools are treated equally and fairly, the yawning gap between the highest and lowest will get wider and wider."

The National Union of Teachers leader, Doug McAvoy, said the tables continued to penalise schools working against the odds.

"Schools which have to work to overcome, for example, socio-economic deprivation, disillusion with education fed by low expectations among parents, high levels of homelessness, do not get the credit they deserve."

A senior government source expressed annoyance at their comments.

It was, he said, "quite disgraceful" for union leaders to be undermining schools' achievements at a time when they should be celebrated.

What had made the difference in the most improved schools was not money but targets and extra support.

Most improved schools

The table below shows the top 100 or so schools whose GCSE performance - the percentage getting at least five A*-C grades - has most improved between 1997 and 2000 without declining at all.

The figures show the percentage points increase over the four years.

Click the name of any school for a page detailing its performance.

The St Marylebone CofE School, Westminster, City of 50
International College, Sherborne School, Dorset 37
Selly Park Technology College for Girls, Birmingham 35
The Cardinal Wiseman Roman Catholic School, Ealing 30
Nidderdale High School and Community College, North Yorkshire 30
Bridgewater School, Salford 30
Lodge Park School, Northamptonshire 29
Hillview School for Girls, Kent 28
Colston's Collegiate School, Bristol, City of 28
Bacon's College, Southwark 27
De Brus School, Redcar and Cleveland 27
Chailey School, East Sussex 26
St Wilfrid's Catholic Comprehensive School, West Sussex 25
The Woodroffe School, Dorset 25
Brighouse High School, Calderdale 24
Leiston Community High School, Suffolk 24
Kings Norton Girls' School, Birmingham 24
Parkview School, Cumbria 23
St Peter's Catholic Comprehensive School,, Surrey 23
Aston Manor School, Birmingham 23
Bircotes and Harworth Community School, Nottinghamshire 23
Teign School, Devon 22
MacMillan College, Middlesbrough 22
St Michael's Catholic High School, Barnsley 22
Hayle Community School, Cornwall 22
The Banovallum School, Horncastle, Lincolnshire 22
The King David High School, Manchester 22
Gordon's School, Surrey 22
The Wyvern Technical College, Hampshire 21
Fallibroome High School, Cheshire 21
The Castle School, Somerset 21
Whitgift School, North East Lincolnshire 21
The Nelson Thomlinson School, Cumbria 21
Oaklands School, Tower Hamlets 21
Greenacre School, Medway 21
Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat CofE Sec, Tower Hamlets 21
Holmesdale Community School, Kent 21
George Abbot School, Surrey 20
Cheam High School, Sutton 20
Birchwood Community High School, Warrington 20
Chingford Foundation School, Waltham Forest 20
The Long Eaton School, Derbyshire 20
The Robert Manning Technology College, Lincolnshire 20
The Bromfords School, Essex 20
Lampton School, Hounslow 20
St Peter's Collegiate Church of England School, Wolverhampton 20
Churchmead School, Windsor and Maidenhead 20
La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School, Lambeth 20
Wigmore High School, Herefordshire 20
St Philip Howard Catholic School, Derbyshire 20
The Hayesbrook School, Kent 20
Portland Place School, Westminster, City of 20
Alsager School, Cheshire 19
Helena Romanes School and Sixth Form Centre, Essex 19
Park House School, West Berkshire 19
The Appleton School, Essex 19
Quarrydale School, Nottinghamshire 19
St Philomena's School, Sutton 19
Middleton Technology School, Rochdale 19
The Highfield School, Hertfordshire 19
Oxstalls Community School, Gloucestershire 19
Rawthorpe High School, Kirklees 19
Edgecliff High School, Staffordshire 19
Queen's Gate School, Kensington and Chelsea 19
Wolfreton School, East Riding of Yorkshire 18
The King Edward VI School, Northumberland 18
The John of Gaunt School, Wiltshire 18
Graveney School, Wandsworth 18
The Summerhill School, Dudley 18
Blackfen School for Girls, Bexley 18
The Bishop's Blue Coat C of E High School, Cheshire 18
Whitburn School, South Tyneside 18
The Marlborough Church of England School, Oxfordshire 18
Bishop Milner Catholic School, Dudley 18
Eckington School, Derbyshire 17
Barking Abbey Comprehensive School, Barking and Dagenham 17
Saddleworth School, Oldham 17
Park View Community School, Durham 17
Mill Hill High School, Barnet 17
Small Heath School, Birmingham 17
Wellington School, Trafford 17
Mellow Lane School, Hillingdon 17
Bishop Ramsey CofE Voluntary Aided Secondary, Hillingdon 17
St Peter's Catholic School, Solihull 17
St John Bosco High School, Liverpool 17
All Hallows Catholic High School, Lancashire 17
Thomas Telford School, Telford and Wrekin 17
The Nobel School, Hertfordshire 17
Haygrove School, Somerset 17
Roundwood Park School, Hertfordshire 17
The Coseley School, Dudley 17
Waseley Hills High School and Sixth Form Centre, Worcestershire 17
Kingstone High School, Herefordshire 17
The Leys School, Cambridgeshire 17
The Kingstone School, Barnsley 16
Robert Clack School, Barking and Dagenham 16
The Deepings School, Lincolnshire 16
Holyhead School, Birmingham 16
Wyndham School, Cumbria 16
Stoke High School, Suffolk 16
Ashdown School, Poole 16
Golden Hillock Community School, Birmingham 16
The Snaith School, East Riding of Yorkshire 16
The Forest School, West Sussex 16
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Secondary School, Southwark 16
Sturminster Newton High School, Dorset 16
Hope Valley College, Derbyshire 16
Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire 16
Moor Park High School, Lancashire 16

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The BBC's Mike Baker
"Ordinary schools in deprived areas argue they are harshly judged"
Schools Minister, Estelle Morris
"It is not a threat, it is a promise of support"
See also:

26 Sep 00 | Education
Blair's manifesto promise for schools
20 Jun 00 | Education
Specialist schools 'better, faster'
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
Secondary schools
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