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Education secretary to tackle underachievement in schools

17/11/2015 Joanna
Education secretary Nicky Morgan has announced a series of measures which will be implemented to tackle underachievement in schools. 

Currently, teachers take part in assessments with schools sending their results to local authorities. A consultation is planned which will consider a move to start gathering these results at a national level, perhaps with external testing and the publication of results.

A new target could be introduced, requiring 90 per cent of pupils to take core academic subjects at GCSE. This will make it compulsory for students to take GCSEs in English, maths, history or geography, two sciences and a language. This target does however allow exemptions to be made by head teachers, such as for pupils with special needs. At present, just 39 per cent of students take these core subjects.

Ms Morgan wants to specifically target areas with low achievement, such as coastal towns and some northern cities. Currently, she said, there are 20 local authorities where most pupils do not achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

"Coastal towns and rural areas struggle because they struggle to recruit and retain good teachers, they lack that vital ingredient that makes for a successful education," she said.

In a speech on Tuesday, Ms Morgan announced details of the pre-election pledge to create a National Teaching Service. This aims to recruit a pool of 1,500 high-achieving teachers over five years who would be deployed to schools in areas with weak results. It will offer financial incentives for teachers to join this project, with staff expected to stay for up to three years.

Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, is positive about the National Teaching Service as a way of helping schools in parts of the country where they "simply cannot recruit teachers".

There will also be a consultation on changes to measuring how pupils are progressing through primary school. As well as the baseline tests when pupils start school, and SATS at the age of 11, the government is looking at a tougher approach to tests at the age of seven.

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