Coasting label slammed by head teacher

PUBLISHED: 10:19 25 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 July 2010

EIGHTEEN East Anglian schools are among hundreds across England that have signed up to a scheme to stretch pupils who are falling behind, it emerged last night, as a row exploded over them being labelled as “coasting”.

EIGHTEEN East Anglian schools are among hundreds across England that have signed up to a scheme to stretch pupils who are falling behind, it emerged last night, as a row exploded over them being labelled as “coasting”.

Thousands of children who “lose momentum and hope” could be given a bright future by the Gaining Ground project, which pays for staff to track pupils and ensure they do not underachieve.

The scheme was set up to give support to schools that have been accused of failing to fulfil every pupils' potential because they are “coasting” - a label that has stuck.

Last night, the head of one of the schools, Ron Munson from Taverham High, slammed the label as “terrible”.

He said the government had since “quietly dropped” the word, and said the £30,000 over the two years of the initiative would make sure “children will not be able to slip through the net”.

Eight Norfolk high schools - Cromer, Flegg in Martham, Hamond's in Swaffham, Hellesdon, Long Stratton, Sprowston, Stalham and Taverham - put themselves forward for Gaining Ground.

Five Suffolk schools - Deben High and Orwell High in Felixstowe, Benjamin Britten High in Lowestoft, Newmarket College and Sudbury Upper - are in, while four have signed up in Cambridgeshire.

The scheme targets schools that are in the middle ground of achievers, but are not necessarily stretching all of their students. Among the qualifications for being accepted onto Gaining Ground are:

Good numbers of pupils start high school at the nationally-expected level but fail to achieve their potential by the end of their time

There has been little of no improvement in results over three years

Ofsted ratings have been disappointing given the school's intake and potential

There may be significant in-school variation in the performance of different groups

The school's value-added score, which shows how much a school has helped each pupil improve, is significantly below average.

Mr Munson said: “Calling the schools 'coasting' is terrible. It labels them unnecessarily.”

He added: “Anytime I think I can help the students to do better, and I'm offered £30,000 for two years, I will take it.

“I can now offer posts in the school to track individual children. Each year seven pupil will have a member of staff specifically to look at predicted grades and targets and if they start to slip they will look at that.

“Children will not be able to slip through the net. This will help us to keep them on track.”

Michael Gove, the shadow children's secretary, said: “It is very worrying that the government figures show that there are so many schools which are simply not doing well enough.”

Iain Wright, the schools minister, said: “These schools are not failing schools - they will have acceptable, or sometimes even good results, but may not be fulfilling the potential of their pupils.”

Nationally, 470 schools are signed up to the project, which is 15pc of England's secondaries. With an average of 975 pupils per secondary school, it suggests that 458,000 children are affected.

Shelagh Hutson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “Collecting performance data from schools helps us to assess which schools are doing well, and schools that could do better.

“Both the council, and schools, are united in the desire to give our children the best possible start in life. We are working with the eight schools which are part of the gaining ground project, to finalise a wider network of schools, who will then work closely together to share good practice.

“We will monitor the work of each of the eight schools and evaluate the progress they are making.”

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