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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 12:51 GMT
Specialist schools now a majority
The government pushed for a wider range of state secondaries
Specialist schools are now a majority of schools in England.

The milestone has been reached with the announcement of 238 more specialist schools by the School Standards Minister, David Miliband.

Specialist schools have an area of excellence, such as science, sport or the arts, and they receive extra funding.

The government has argued that they are particularly effective at improving exam results.

'Bog standard specialists'

The drive for more specialist schools has been part of the government's plan for a more diverse range of schools.

Specialist schools, which can have a limited amount of selection, were intended to become local flagship schools, which would be better funded, with a distinctive character and better exam results.

The promotion of specialist schools, along with other school varieties such as city academies, was an attempt to get away from the "bog standard comprehensives".

There are now 1,686 specialist schools, including the first music and humanities colleges, amounting to 54% of secondary schools.

This means that the state comprehensive is now in a clear minority.

Exam success

The school standards minister said that there will now be 1.5 million pupils studying in specialist schools - and new specialists include colleges for engineering, art, business and enterprise, languages and sport.

There will also be a "rural academy" of nine schools which will have joint specialist status in technology.

And the Department for Education says that this year's GCSE results showed that specialists "outperformed" other state secondary schools.

It said 57% of specialist pupils gaining five good GCSEs, compared with 49% of non-specialist pupils.

"Specialist schools have a record of above average achievement so I am delighted that over half of our secondary schools have now gained specialist status," Mr Miliband said.

"This has become a mass movement for raising standards and more and more schools will join their ranks later this year."

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, welcomed the increase in the number of specialist schools, which he said represented a considerable amount of work on the part of the schools.

"Now that half of secondary schools have achieved specialist status, it is time to move as quickly as possible away from this two-tier approach and I hope that the remaining secondary schools will achieve specialist status as soon as possible.

"I am greatly encouraged by the speed with which the Government appears to be moving towards this more inclusive belief in specialist schools."

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