GOVERNMENT threats to close a high school have been condemned by a teachers’ union and its headteacher.
Blacon High School in Melbourne Road was told last week it may be shut down if pupils do not reach exam pass rates set out by the Government.
Last year, only 16% of pupils at the school achieved at least five A-C grades at GCSE, including English and maths – well short of the 30% target.
The Government’s ‘National Challenge’ indicated that if 638 schools in England do not make that benchmark by 2011, they could be closed and a new school opened, to be run as a joint project with a high-performing local school.
Now the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has stepped into the debate.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, said: “Only 11% of schools in the sample were considered by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) to need the intervention and threats now being employed by the Government.
“The NUT will not stand by and watch the vilification of school communities and the intolerable pressure put on heads and teachers as a result of the Government’s arbitrary actions.”
Following Blacon High’s last Ofsted inspection in 2006, it was graded satisfactory and good in all areas of its teaching provision.
Nothing was deemed ‘inadequate’, the lowest rating Ofsted can give and which is often a prelude to intervention.
Headteacher Ella Brett vowed projected performance means the school will not be one of those threatened with closure.
She said: “Last year, Blacon High improved their exam results by more than 6% without any National Challenge support and intervention and the school expects a further rise in progress this academic year and in future years.
“A far more comprehensive measure of school performance is that of contextual value added, and this school outperforms the majority of other schools, being in the top 25% nationally, and ranked 10th highest in Cheshire.
“It is a pity that the focus of the National Challenge, in the eyes of the public, is around threats and closure, rather than being about the support that will be available to schools facing challenging circumstances.
“It is also of concern that the Challenge does not identify the levels of progress that students at Blacon High School make during their time at school.”
Cheshire County Council was given 50 days to produce a rescue plan to improve the specialist sports college and Blacon High will get extra funding from a £140m Government kitty to help it improve results.