The most intelligent students or those with special needs were often neglected between the age of 11 and 16 years, said the Schools Secretary. According to Government figures, around one in seven children – 86,000 a year – fail to make enough progress in literacy in the first four years of secondary school. Schools in isolated rural areas are among the worst offenders because they face little competition from others nearby. It is also believed comprehensives in leafy suburbs and grammar schools – performing above the national average but failing to get the best out of middle-class students – may also be placed under scrutiny. Balls ordered local authorities to draw up a hit list of all schools that should 'be getting better results.' 'Sometimes they are not stretching their most able pupils, sometimes they are not meeting the needs of pupils who face difficulties and often they need to be more ambitious about the standards they can achieve,' he said. The move marks a policy shift following a previous Government focus on the very worst schools.
Some 638 secondaries currently failing to hit baseline targets – which require 30 per cent of pupils to gain five decent GCSEs, including English and mathematics – have already been warned to improve or face take-over. Balls refused to say how many more fell into the 'coasting' category, but Ofsted has already warned half of England's state secondary schools should be doing better. Yesterday, he announced UK