News Apr 22nd 2015

The improvement of secondary schools truth or an illusion?

Nowadays, everybody is talking about improvements among secondary school pupils. And it is only logical to think about this when the government has spent £840 million on education during lasts years. The leadership made this investment in the hope of preventing poor performance and increase schools' professionalism. However, as always, there are two sides of the story.

The bright side of the educational reform

First, a study undertaken by two professors at London School of Economics, shows that there have been improvements in secondary schools test results. These evolving institutions have benefited from the so called Mr. Gove's reforms and have become academies. As a result, in here, there were 15% more poor pupils who achieved five good GCSEs than in non-academy schools. Also, it seems that management plays a vital role when it comes to better educational results, as chains like ARK and Harris in London and Perry Beeches in the Midlands have the best performances.

secondary school

At the other end of the stick

However, there were some free schools and academies that failed to make any progress. The management didn't know how to fight for a better education, so the institutions were closed. Furthermore, several Muslim and Christian free schools proved to still promote narrow-mindedness among pupils.

Wondering what areas got the worst results? They are represented by Knowsley (a Merseyside suburb), Blackpool and the Isle of Wight. There are two factors to blame in here: the immigrant population with little interest in educational performances and the lack of good teachers. This combination makes progress impossible.

Some comparisons

Taking Scotland and Wales, the situation is the following one: maths and reading were best represented by Scotland at the last PISA tests, while both areas fell behind on science. It looks like Wales still needs to renew its effective of teachers with more recent trained ones. Even if Scotland takes pride in its free university tuition, only 2% of the poorest students have high enough grades as to enter Ivy-leagues universities. This percentage is way smaller than the one from England.

Statistics that still worry the leadership

According to the Department for Education and Skills and Ofsted's definitions, there are 1,557 schools with low performance that need on-going additional support. Among them, 242 schools are declared to have failed in providing at least an acceptable standard of education. In this case, a great solution would be the possibility of spotting future troubles earlier. This can be done with the help of more frequent Ofsted inspections.

Signs of progress (or lack of progress) in time

Ofsted has a program called Special Measures. Its rate of success is 85%. Unfortunately, the rest of schools don't manage to make good progress and they close. However, the other two-thirds of schools that have benefited from the Special Measures program improve their results in the first year. Most of them recover completely after two years. Institutions with smart management keep up the good work and score higher and higher progress. The key is to offer perpetual coaching for teachers and on-going monitoring for pupils.

But not all schools are able to keep rising. After another two years from recovery, 5% of them are declared unsatisfactory. Furthermore, NAO has showed that 40% of schools that recovered between 1995 and 1997, are now closed since 2005.

In conclusion, schools' performances depend on several factors: schools' management, Ofsted, the Department for Education and Skills, and the local authorities. These must all collaborate as to offer additional support to weak and vulnerable schools. Also, let's not forget that parents have a great influence on children's education.

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