Scores of Yorkshire schools could fall into new coasting category

The Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan.
The Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan.
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MORE than 70 secondary schools in Yorkshire which are currently above GCSE floor targets could be at risk of being classed as coasting under tougher new Govermment rules announced today.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has vowed to crackdown on such schools and has now set out the standards against which primaries and secondaries will be judged.

Kevin Courtney, the NUT's deputy general secretary.

Kevin Courtney, the NUT's deputy general secretary.

A school will be classed as coasting only if its results fall short over three years - starting from the period between 2014 and 2016.

Secondary schools will fall into this category if in 2014 and 2015 fewer than 60 per cent of students achieve five A* to C GCSE grades, including English and maths, and pupils falls below the median level of progress being made nationally. From 2016 schools will instead be assessed on how much progress pupils make across eight subjects.

A school has to be below these standards in each of the three years to be classed as coasting. By 2018 schools will only be assessed on how much progress pupils are making and not on their raw exam results.

If a school is classed as coasting the Government’s Regional Schools Commissioners will assess whether it has a credible plan to improve. The Department for Education (DfE) said those that can improve will be supported by a 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.”

Under the current system a school is classed as being “below floor targets” if less than 40 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, and a school does not keep up with the average progress being made nationally in the two core subjects.

Under this system there are 57 schools in the county which are below the floor target including more than 20 academies.

However the Government is now expecting schools to ensure 60 per cent of pupils get five A* to C grades including English and maths. Using this measure in last summer’s exams there are more than 70 secondary schools in Yorkshire who are currently above the floor target but which could be classed as coasting if they remain below the new bar in 2015 and 2016 as well.

Primary schools will be classed as coasting if for the first two years they have seen fewer than 85 per cent of children achieving level four, the secondary ready standard, in reading, writing and maths and which have also seen below average proportions of pupils making expected progress between the ages of seven and 11. From 2016 they will be judged against a new measure of progress.

Speaking today Mrs Morgan is expected to say: “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 DfE said 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.

However union leaders have voiced concerns about the plans.

The National Union of Teacher’s deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney and the National Association of Head Teachers’ general secretary Russell Hobby both criticised the DfE for having announced the crackdown on coasting schools weeks ago but only now defining what the Government means by this.

Mr Courtney said: “We congratulate Nicky Morgan on finally arriving at a definition of ‘coasting’. This took an impressive 45 days.

“Nicky Morgan says that coasting schools will ultimately be transformed into academies, but by her own definition very many academy schools will also be coasting.

“Schools are already under enormous pressure to placate the whims of Government and Ofsted. Today’s arbitrary target will only serve to sharpen teaching to the test and a concentration on borderline students. This already results in a narrowed curriculum and, for many pupils, disengagement.”

Mr Hobby said: “It was wrong to talk about coasting schools without first defining what a coasting school is; it created unnecessary fear. We’ve pressed for a definition and now we have it. The first comment is that – at this moment – there are no coasting schools. A school will only be judged as coasting on three years’ worth of results from 2014-2016, so we won’t know who is coasting until the autumn of 2016.

“However, raising the bar above the current floor standard will put more schools under pressure and this may not produce positive results given the frantic pace of change at the moment. The measure is also retrospective, applying as it does over 2014 and 2015 as well as 2016. A school could find itself in the position of having met every target set for it at the time and then discovering after the fact that this wasn’t enough. This is not a good way to encourage people to take on the leadership of challenging schools – an issue the government is struggling with.”

The DfE said the new measure will be introduced through the Education and Adoption Bill.