Press release: Hundreds of ‘coasting’ schools to be transformed

Hundreds of coasting schools will be targeted for improvement after Education Secretary Nicky Morgan unveiled a new measure which for the first time will identify those schools which are failing to push every pupil to reach their potential.

These schools, which have been deemed to be ‘coasting’ for a number of years, will be offered help from the best education experts in the country to improve their results and will be required to produce a clear plan for improvement.

The government’s regional schools commissioners – 8 education experts with in-depth local insight supported by elected head teacher boards from the local community – will then assess whether or not the school has a credible plan to improve and ensure all children make the required progress. Those that can improve will be supported to do so by our team of expert heads, and those that cannot will be turned into academies under the leadership of our expert school sponsors – one of the best ways of improving underperforming schools.

The new measure will be introduced through the Education and Adoption Bill and sets out a clear definition of what a ‘coasting’ school is.

Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below a new ‘coasting’ level for 3 years.

In 2014 and 2015 that level will be set at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs or an above-average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress. From 2016, the level will be set based on Progress 8 – our new accountability measure, which shows how much progress pupils in a particular school make between the end of primary school and their GCSEs.

At primary level, the definition will apply to those schools who have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving an acceptable secondary-ready standard in reading, writing and maths over the course of 3 years, and who have seen insufficient pupil progress.

The announcement comes on the day the National Audit Office highlights the pupil premium – extra funding given to schools to help disadvantaged pupils fulfil their potential – has led to schools dramatically improving their focus on improving the life chances of disadvantaged pupils. The report finds 94% of school leaders surveyed now target support to these pupils – compared to just 57% before the introduction of the pupil premium.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

Our one nation approach is very much about making sure children are being properly supported to achieve their best in school. But for too long a group of ‘coasting’ schools, many in leafy areas with more advantages than schools in disadvantaged communities, have fallen beneath the radar.

I’m unapologetic about shining a spotlight on complacency and I want the message to go out loud and clear, that education isn’t simply about pushing children over an artificial borderline, but instead about stretching every pupil to unlock their potential and give them the opportunity to get on in life. I know that schools and teachers will rise to the challenge, and the extra support we’ll offer to coasting schools will help them do just that.

The measure is expected to help hundreds of schools that previously fell beneath the radar – which could be because they have high-attaining intakes, or focused on getting lots of pupils over the C/D borderline. These schools previously would not have been spotted, as they do not fall beneath the government’s strict exam results floor standards and may not have received negative Ofsted reports.

Today’s announcement comes in the week that the 5,000th independent state-funded school (which could be an academy, free school, studio school or university technical college) opens. This is up from just 203 in 2010 – signalling the government’s drive to give parents more choice of a good local school, while tackling underperformance in all areas of the country.

The announcement also comes on the day that the Academies Annual Report for the 2013/14 academic year provides clear and credible evidence of the positive impact academies are having on young people’s life chances, it finds:

  • established sponsored academies have GCSE results well above those of their predecessor schools, even under new and tougher measures: 6.4 percentage points higher after 4 years, compared to 1.3 percentage points in non-academies
  • sponsored primary academies improve their test results at more than double the rate of non-academies: 9 percentage points compared to 4 percentage points after 2 years
  • results for pupils on free school meals improve faster in primary sponsored academies than in other schools
  • sponsored academies are increasing the number of pupils studying the EBacc package of rigorous academic qualifications at a faster rate than non-academies
  • almost three-quarters (72%) of academies support other schools that they did not support pre-conversion

The government recently announced plans to tackle failing schools by introducing a new measure to turn all schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted into academies. The move is expected to help a further 1,000 schools between now and 2020 improve by sweeping away bureaucratic and legal loopholes that previously prevented schools from being transformed.

Notes to editors

  1. For secondary schools, a school will be ‘coasting’ if in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60% of children achieve 5 A* to C including English and mathematics and they are below the median level of expected progress and in 2016 they fall below a level set against the new progress 8 measure. This level will be set after 2016 results are available to ensure it is set at a suitable level. A school will have to be below those levels in all 3 years to be defined as ‘coasting’. By 2018 the definition of ‘coasting’ will be based entirely on Progress 8 and will not have an attainment element.

  2. At primary level the definition will apply to those schools who for the first 2 years have seen fewer than 85% of children achieving level 4, the secondary-ready standard, in reading, writing and maths, and which have also seen below-average proportions of pupils making expected progress between age 7 and age 11, followed by a year below a ‘coasting’ level set against the new accountability regime which will see children being expected to achieve a new higher expected standard and schools being measured against a new measure of progress.

  3. The ‘coasting’ definition will capture performance in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Therefore we will not know until 2016 how many schools will be captured within the definition. However, based on current performance we expect the definition to apply to hundreds of schools.

  4. Secondary schools currently fall beneath the government’s floor standards if fewer than 40% of children achieve 5 or more A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths, and if the proportion of pupils making expected progress between key stage 2 and 4 in English and maths is below the median. Primary schools are considered below the floor standards if fewer than 65% of children achieve level 4 in reading, writing and maths, and if the proportion of pupils making expected progress between key stage 1 and key stage 2 in reading, writing and maths is below the median.

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