Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 16:49 UK

School improvement around the UK

The Westminster government's approach to school performance is markedly different to those of the devolved administrations elsewhere in the UK.


League tables were abolished in 2003. There is no equivalent to the English targets or threats.

Poorly performing schools are dealt with through the inspection regime.

This has been tightened up and inspections, which used to be up to 20 years apart, now take place every six to seven years.

Unpopular and/or failing schools are also more likely to be closed down than in the past. Falling rolls is often a trigger for this.

When a significant proportion of school places are unfilled, the local authority will step in and "rationalise" the school provision in an area by reducing the number of schools and closing the unpopular one.


The idea of performance targets is anathema to the education culture here.

Under devolution, national curriculum tests and school league tables have been abolished.

Schools inspectorate Estyn has said, however, that standards would improve if more schools and local authorities made systematic use of exam results to analyse and "compare systematically" how well they were doing.

Estyn can label schools that are causing concern as requiring either "significant improvement" or "special measures" (i.e. failing).

The local authority then has to come up with an action plan and a timescale, which is submitted to the education minister; the schools are then re-inspected each term.

Most are removed from these categories within two years.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly Government said the minister's powers of intervention had never been exercised.

Currently there are five secondary schools deemed to need significant improvement and one in special measures.


Northern Ireland's starting point is higher average exam results in GCSEs and A-levels than in England or Wales.

It has had a 10-year-old school improvement programme, with literacy and numeracy targets for primary school leavers and targets for GCSE and A-level performance.

A consultation on a review of this policy has just been conducted, under the banner Every School a Good School.

This said the existing approach did not have sufficient emphasis on improvement for every school.

"There needs to be much more emphasis on both 'raising the bar' and 'closing the gap' in terms of standards and outcomes in schools."

The core of the proposed replacement is "self-evaluation leading to sustained self improvement".

The hard edge to this is to be a formal improvement process for those schools where progress "is not what it should be" as determined by inspection findings.

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