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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
One-year warning for weak schools
Unity City Academy
Unity City Academy was a recent high-profile failure
Failing schools in England that do not improve within a year could face closure, the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly has announced.

Previously, schools have been given two years or more to turn themselves around.

Ms Kelly complains that some have been given up to six years to satisfy inspectors - the whole of some children's time in secondary education.

She wants to inject "more urgency" into attempts to improve schools.

In a speech to local government leaders on Tuesday, she said more radical action was needed to tackle failure.

Schools which failed under the new regime could be turned into new city academies or be taken under the control of a successful school in their area.

Options

Addressing the Local Government Association, Ms Kelly said she believed that education was "more than something that is bought and sold".

She argued for parents to be treated as partners in education rather than as consumers.

Dame Maureen Brennan
If it's your child in that school, two years is a long time if no progress is being made
Head teacher Mo Brennan

Despite continued progress on raising school standards, she said radical action should be be taken immediately schools were found to be failing.

Those that do not improve after a year of failing an Ofsted inspection could be reopened with new leadership, federated with a successful school or closed outright.

Officials indicated that the new measures would be included in a schools white paper to be published later this autumn.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast Ruth Kelly said: "Incremental improvement, to be frank, isn't good enough for the children at those schools.

"I mean, children stay at a secondary school sometimes for just six years. And if the school is in special measures for six years, that school will have failed that child."

From failing to 'very good'

Dame Maureen Brennan became head teacher of Hillcrest School and Community College in Dudley, West Midlands, in September 2000 when for two years it had been in "special measures" - the category Ofsted assigns to failing schools.

By the following March she had satisfied inspectors that it was on the way up.

Within another two years it was pronounced "very good".

Dame Maureen shares the concern that some schools languish in special measures.
City academies at the moment are brand new builds, which is why they are unlikely to be the first choice for tackling failure
Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary
Setting a one-year deadline could help head teachers give the process a sense of urgency, she told BBC News.

"If it's your child in that school, two years is a long time if no progress is being made. It will affect their GCSE results.

"It's very simple. If somebody's not doing their job, it should be clear: they either do it or leave."

No 'magic wand'

But the head of The Thorpe Bay School in Southchurch Boulevard, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Jean Alder, said 12 months was not enough.

"When a school fails to meet the standards required during an inspection it is right that action is taken to improve the situation but suggesting that a magic wand can be waved and everything changed within 12 months is simply not realistic.

"It can take that first year to change the culture of the school, to get the students turned on to have a positive attitude towards learning, for parents to come on board and support the school in its work and for any necessary staffing changes to be achieved," she said.

Her school's results had just begun to reflect changes she introduced when she took over.

"Sadly the curriculum we inherited 18 months ago meant that no matter how high a grade some students achieved on the courses they were following their success would not be included in the GCSE league tables."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why failing schools could close sooner



SEE ALSO:
Heads reject school closure plan
06 Sep 05 |  Education
New inspections 'will be tougher'
01 Sep 05 |  Education
Heads concerned over inspections
30 Aug 05 |  Education
Shorter, sharper - but not shocking
01 Jul 05 |  Education
Queen's awards for education
11 Jun 05 |  Education


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