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Fewer taught in failing schools

Messenger Newspapers: Fewer children are being taught in failing schools, new figures suggest Fewer children are being taught in failing schools, new figures suggest

Almost a quarter of a million fewer children are being taught in failing secondary schools compared with three years ago, new figures suggest.

The number of schools falling below the Government's floor target for secondaries has more than halved since 2010, according to official data contained in new performance tables.

But there are still just over 150 schools that are considered to be under-performing, collectively educating almost 120,000.

At these schools, less than 40% of their pupils are gaining at least five GCSEs at grade C or higher, including English and maths, and students are not making good enough progress in these two core subjects.

In total, about 117,000 youngsters are being educated in the 154 schools that are not reaching the Government's 40% GCSE benchmark - down 50,000 from 2012 and down 244,000 from 2010.

The new league tables are based on data provided by the Department for Education (DfE) and show how every school and college in England performed at GCSE, A-level, other academic and vocational qualifications in 2013.

This year's top school for GCSEs was Colyton Grammar School in Devon. The co-educational school gained the best results in the country for the second year running. It entered 120 pupils for GCSEs and equivalent exams with all gaining at least five qualifications at grade C or higher.

The most improved school in England was St Thomas More Catholic School in north London.

Its GCSE results have risen from less than a third (31%) of pupils reaching the target of five or more A*-C grades , including English and maths, in 2010 to more than nine in 10 (91%) achieving this benchmark in 2013 - a 60% improvement.

The latest tables also include figures on the number of pupils achieving the Government's flagship English Baccalaureate (EBacc) measure.

To gain the EBacc, pupils must score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, history or geography and a foreign language.

A DfE analysis of the data found that this year, 202,000 pupils were entered for the EBacc, compared with 130,000 in 2012.

In 735 secondaries, more than half of pupils were entered for the EBacc, and in 237 secondaries more than 50% of students achieved the EBacc.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said that the figures were " a credit to the professionalism and hard work of teachers".

"Thanks to their efforts, the number of children taught in under-performing schools has fallen by almost 250,000 since 2010," he said.

"This progress has been achieved at the same time as our EBacc has ensured many more young people are taking the core subjects which will most help them find a good job or go on to university."

Simon Burgess, director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation and professor of economics at University of Bristol said: "Performance tables are an important part of the school accountability system in England.

"Our research has shown that league tables play an important role in school standards. Removing league tables reduces average school performance and raises inequality in attainment. "

The latest data also shows the proportions of pupils at each school or college that are top grades at A-level in "facilitating" subjects.

These are subjects which are preferred, or required more often, by Russell Group universities, which are considered among the best institutions in the UK.

An analysis of the statistics suggests that at around 420 schools and colleges, no A-level student scored at least two A grades and a B in these subjects.

For the first time, the DfE's data gives separate results for academic and vocational qualifications.

The move allows parents to see a school or college's performance in each type of qualification and ministers have insisted it will help families to choose where to send their child.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "We are not in favour of reporting vocational and academic qualifications separately because it sends the wrong message to pupils, parents and schools about what is important. Academic and vocational qualifications are of equal value, should be held in equally high esteem and treated as equal in a unified reporting system.

"All 16 to 19-year-olds need vocational skills irrespective of what subjects they are studying, and they all need the option of studying both academic and vocational subjects."

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