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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 10:42 GMT
Specialist schools mark 'beaten'
The government says specialist schools raise standards
The government will exceed its target of creating 2,000 specialist secondary schools in England a year early, officials say.

Some 289 extra schools applied for the status by this October, with 200 expected to meet the criteria.

The existing number is already above 1,900. The target of 2,000 had been set for the school year starting in 2006.

The government says specialists - which are given extra funding - are raising standards.


Comprehensives must gather 50,000 in sponsorship before bidding for specialist status in areas such as the arts, sciences or sport.

If successful, they get a one-off grant of 100,000 and then an extra 126 per pupil for four years.

Ministers say moving away from "one-size-fits-all" secondary schools has improved exam performances.

This summer, 56.9% of final-year specialist school pupils gained five A* to C GCSE grades.

In non-specialist state schools, the figure was 47.7%.

Critics say the difference in performance is partly due to the fact specialists are able to choose up 10% of their pupils by aptitude for their specialist subject.

However, only a minority choose to do so.

A report by the education watchdog Ofsted, to be published next February, is expected to show specialist schools have higher standards and provide a broader range of extra-curricular activities than non-specialists.

But performances in specialist subjects will be judged to be "levelling off" and, in some cases, declining.

Education minister Margaret Hodge said: "The specialist schools programme is meeting the individual needs of pupils, offering choice for parents and driving up standards across the system.

"Performance figures underline the fact that specialist schools are at the forefront of a high-aspiration, high-performance education system."

Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said: "In the week when the CBI highlighted that only about one in two school-leavers in England achieved GCSE Maths or English qualifications at grade C or above, few will care about the exact status of individual schools.

"Rather, it is apparent that standards, discipline and pride in our schools will only improve when all head teachers are given greater freedom to run their classrooms."

Specialist schools now a majority
29 Jan 04 |  Education

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