The Government is steadily raising the minimum acceptable standard that a secondary school can achieve, in terms of GCSE results, without being taken over and put under new management as a "sponsored academy." Under Labour the "floor" was 30% of pupils achieving five good GCSE grades including English and maths. Michael Gove increased it to 35% when he took office, rising it to 40% this year, and 50% by the end of this Parliament.
It follows that in areas where the average GCSE results are below 50% in a Local Authority area, then some pretty drastic changes are on the way.
I looked at Table 17 from the latest stats released by the Department of Education based on this year's exams. I spotted the following areas where the average results, on this accepted GCSE measure, were below 50%:
- Nottingham 49.1%
- Peterborough 48.9%
- Hartlepool 48.5%
- Blackpool 47.5%
- Middlesbrough 47.4%
- Hull 47.2%
- Barnsley 44.9%
- Isle of Wight 44.3%
- Knowsley 40.8%
We won't have the updated performance tables for individual schools until the end of January. But looking at the seven Knowsley secondary schools' results from 2011 I see that five of them were below the 50% standard. Incidentally they are not called schools but "centres for learning."
Some of the LAs on the list already have Sponsored Academies on the way. Barnsley has several, for instance. There has been dramatic progress on GCSE results in the one academy it already has. Last month saw examples of secondary schools in Nottingham and Hull becoming sponsored academies.
Amidst all the froth about the Government's difficulties, the remarkable transformation of our schools is on course.