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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 11:04 GMT
Fewer schools on 'failing' list
David Bell visiting a school
David Bell said failing schools were improving quickly
The number of failing schools placed under "special measures" to push them to improve has fallen, England's education watchdog Ofsted says.

Its figures show they decreased from 332 last summer to 314 at the end of the calendar year.

However, the number of failing secondaries on the list remained the same, at 94.

Primary schools were the biggest improvers, with 21 leaving special measures to bring the number to 180.

'Approach vindicated'

But a further two special needs schools and one referral unit - for excluded pupils - were added to Ofsted's list.

Mr Bell said he was please with the overall "downward" trend in special measures numbers.

He added: "It vindicates our approach as schools that are identified as failing soon improve and offer their pupils a decent standard of education.

"I offer my warm congratulations to the pupils, teachers and governors in these turnaround schools."

Schools Minister Stephen Twigg said: "The number of schools in special measures remains very low and falling, at a time when the bar has been raised on school inspection."

But Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said: "This changes very little.

"Overall, 32 more schools were placed in special measures in 2003-04 than the previous year, while the discipline problem in many primaries and secondaries remains acute."

The number of schools identified by Ofsted as having "serious weaknesses" fell from 317 to 302 during the autumn term.

Again, primaries accounted for most of this - with16 removed. Two fewer secondaries were on the list, while two special needs schools and one pupil referral joined it.

Those "underachieving" went from 78 to 71. Of these, primaries fell from 66 to 56 and secondaries rose from 12 to 15.

Last month, Mr Bell warned that a tenth of schools - equivalent to more than 2,000 - had "not improved enough".

Behaviour was unsatisfactory in 9% of secondaries.

Mr Bell also warned of too much variation in performance between schools serving similar areas.

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