Education Audit Secondary Schools: The Named and Shamed: How the `Blunkett 18' Fared
Garner, Richard, The Independent (London, England)
Within three weeks of taking power in 1997, Labour shocked the teaching profession by disclosing the 18 schools it regarded as the worst in the country.
The move by the former secretary of state for education, David Blunkett, was a calculated gamble to show that his department would not tread softly in its attempts to raise standards. But teachers' unions reacted angrily to the "naming and shaming" policy, claiming the adverse publicity would convince pupils they stood no chance of a decent education and thus increase truancy rates.
The exercise proved to be a one-off. Despite claims that Labour would continue to draw attention to inadequate schools, ministers never again resorted to public humiliation. The nearest they came was when Mr Blunkett announced in 2000 that he was giving all schools three years to get at least 15 per cent of pupils through their GCSEs with five A* to C grades, or face closure. Although that deadline is now up, ministers have retreated from the plan to a degree, saying that underperforming schools will not necessarily be shut down.
So did the original naming and shaming work? Six years on, four of the original 18 have closed and six have been given "fresh starts" - closed and reopened with a new name, new head and new staff. Of these six, four failed again and have been relaunched for a second time. Eight are as they were, with two still languishing near the foot of the exam results tables. All 14 that remain open have shown some improvement.
Teachers' unions continue to decry naming and shaming, arguing that many schools have been turned round by less drastic means. But the policy undoubtedly made teachers and education bosses strive to keep their schools off the list.
These are the stories of the "Blunkett 18":
w Handsworth Wood, Birmingham: a secondary school where one in 12 pupils was playing truant on any given day. It closed a year after appearing on the list - closure was already being considered by city councillors at the time.
w Kelsey Park, Bromley: a secondary school whose average sixth- former obtained the equivalent of less than one B grade at A-level in 1997. Ofsted says it has now improved, and last year 30 per cent of pupils obtained at least five top-grade GCSE passes for the first time.
w Ashburton High, Croydon: condemned by ministers for only getting 18 per cent of pupils through their GCSEs with five A* to C grades in 1997. This improved to 31 per cent last year.
w Ingram High, Croydon: a boys' school criticised when only one in four pupils achieved five top-grade GCSE passes. It was given a fresh start but ran into a row with the NUT when 12 teachers were threatened with dismissal for incompetence. It is now called Selhurst High School for Boys and has increasingly good GCSE results.
w Rams Episcopal, Hackney: the first primary school on the list, singled out because 60 per cent of its 11-year-olds failed to reach the required standard in English tests. It was closed after spending two years on Ofsted's list of failing schools, but given a fresh start and handed over to a private company, CfBT, to run. It became the first privatised school to close in 2000 after Hackney council decided it had still not shown sufficient improvement.
w Morningside, Hackney: originally on the list because only one in 10 of its 11-year-olds reached the required standard in maths tests. Ofsted now says it is an improving school, although standards are still low in relation to national averages.
w Southfields, Gravesend, Kent: the school came bottom of the first national …
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Publication information: Article title: Education Audit Secondary Schools: The Named and Shamed: How the `Blunkett 18' Fared. Contributors: Garner, Richard - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 5, 2004. Page number: 6,. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.