Schools watchdog Ofsted is to examine how secondary teachers educate state schools' ablest pupils, amid concerns many of these children are not achieving their full potential.
Recently published Department for Education figures indicate that 23 per cent of state school pupils who achieved level five in key stage two English failed to get at least a B in this subject at GCSE in 2011-12.
Furthermore, 20 per cent of those who attained level five in key stage two maths did not go on to get a B or above when they took their GCSE in this subject last year.
With disproportionately few state school pupils going onto study at the top universities compared to their independently educated counterparts, Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw has called an urgent review into how comprehensive schools teach their most promising children.
Inspectors will over the next few months consider existing inspection data on gifted and talented provision, as well as statistics on pupil progress and visit a representative sample of more than 50 schools to see how they teach their most able pupils.
Sir Michael told the Telegraph: "I am passionate about this; it will be a landmark report.
"I am as concerned as the next person on the issue of social mobility. Are our children and our children from the poorest backgrounds who are naturally bright doing as well as they should?"
The report, which is to be published in the spring, will consider whether able pupils in mixed ability classes are being stretched as much as they should be.
It will also address concerns that schools are entering children too early for GCSEs so as to secure the C grades that count in league tables, when they could have potentially gotten even better grades.
Sir Michael said he believed this illustrated the need for more sophisticated league tables that reflect more accurately the progress pupils are making.
The former head of an academy school in Hackney in east London, he said he had seen for himself that improvements in state schools were encouraging more aspirational parents to trust them to educate their children.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels