Education & Family

Cameron criticises 'coasting' state schools

Prime Minister David Cameron
Image caption Mr Cameron says education makes people "good citizens"

David Cameron has accused a number of state schools in England - particularly in more affluent areas - of "coasting".

He vowed to confront failure in education head-on and deliver "real excellence" through greater choice, competition and freedom.

In a speech at a new Free School in Norwich, the prime minister said new providers would expose "complacency" and help drive up standards.

He also said parents of children who play truant could have benefits cut.

"By the end of next year we would have transformed about 150 secondaries and 200 failing primaries into academies," Mr Cameron said.

'Wake-up call'

"Today we are considering whether we need to go further and faster. It is not just failing schools we need to tackle; it is coasting schools too, the ones whose results have either flat-lined or they haven't improved as much as they could have done.

"More than four out of five state schools in Surrey and Oxfordshire are doing worse than two state schools in relatively deprived parts of inner-London. That must be a wake-up call."

He added: "If you can get 70% of children to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths, in parts of inner London, you should be asking why aren't we doing that everywhere in parts of the country that are wealthier like Oxfordshire where I represent."

The prime minister also vowed to tackle discipline, saying parents of children who continually misbehave should face "real consequences".

"I have asked our social policy review to look into whether we should cut the benefits of those parents whose children constantly play truant," he said.

"Yes, this would be a tough measure - but we urgently need to restore order and respect in the classroom and I don't want ideas like this to be off the table."

Mr Cameron made the comments at the opening of one of England's first free schools, the Norwich Free School.

He said he wanted to see schools like it "replicated many, many times up and down the country".

In an interview with BBC political editor Nick Robinson, he also revealed that he wanted his old school Eton College to set up a school in the state sector.

Representatives of top public schools met the prime minister and Education Secretary Michael Gove on Thursday in Downing Street to discuss the issue.

Critics have called Free Schools, which are state-funded but privately run, socially divisive and unaccountable.

The schools are being set up by parents, teachers, faith groups and other organisations.

Some Lib Dems have opposed free schools amid fears they could be socially divisive, but Mr Cameron says both parties are behind the scheme.

Education ministers recently said they were increasing the minimum standard for schools.

By 2015, any secondary school which sees less than half of its students achieve five good GCSEs will be classified as failing. Currently the standard is 30%.

Ministers hope new free schools and more academies will give parents more choice and help push standards up elsewhere.

Bradford Science Academy Rainbow Free School, Bradford Batley Grammar School, Kirklees Maharishi School, Lancashire Sandbach School, Cheshire East Nishkam Free School, Birmingham Krishna Avanti Primary School, Leicester Priors Free School, Warwickshire The Free School, Norwich Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk Moorlands School, Luton Langley Hall Primary Academy, Slough Bristol Free School, Bristol All Saints Junior School, Reading Discovery New School, West Sussex Aldborough E-ACT Free School, Redbridge Eden Primary, Haringey, North London Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, Mill Hill, London Ark Atwood Primary Academy, Westminster Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Edmonton, London West London Free School, Hammersmith, London Ark Conway Primary Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham Canary Wharf College, Tower Hamlets St Luke's Church of England Primary School, Camden, north London

Bradford Science Academy

Secondary school, taking 140 children a year. Led by Bradford-born teacher Sajid Hussain.

Rainbow Free School, Bradford

Primary school set up by the social enterprise body Asian Trade Link, with support from cricketer Imran Khan.

Batley Grammar School, Kirklees

Mixed private school returning to the state sector under the free schools programme.

Maharishi School, Lancashire

Non-selective independent school for ages 4 - 16. Teaches transcendental meditation and is transferring to the state sector.

Sandbach School, Cheshire East

Boys' secondary school which was technically independent, but fully-funded by Cheshire County Council and a local authority school.

Nishkam Free School, Birmingham

Primary school run by the Nishkam Education Trust "the first state-funded, Sikh ethos, multi-faith school in the Midlands".

Krishna Avanti Primary School, Leicester

Hindu faith school run by the I-Foundation. Children will eat vegetarian meals and practice yoga and meditation.

Priors Free School, Warwickshire

Small private primary school with just 60 places, returning to the state sector.

The Free School, Norwich

A primary school opening in a Georgian house which was previously used as offices.

Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk

Secondary school set up after a campaign by parents, on the site of an existing middle school was facing closure.

Moorlands School, Luton

An independent prep school transferring to the state sector.

Langley Hall Primary Academy, Slough

Set up by a husband and wife team, the school is "underpinned by Christian principles".

Bristol Free School, Bristol

Parent-led secondary school, opening to Year 7 pupils in temporary buildings. An educational trust will run the school.

All Saints Junior School, Reading

School for 7 to 11 year olds, run by the educational trust CfBT. It will take up to 25 children, all in its youngest age group, each year.

Discovery New School, West Sussex

Montessori primary school with "a Christian character in the Anglican tradition".

Aldborough E-ACT Free School, Redbridge

Primary school run by a charitable trust set up by E-ACT

Eden Primary, Haringey, North London

Jewish primary school "independent of any synagogue authority" and open to all members of the Jewish community.

Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School, Mill Hill, London

Jewish primary with "very strong link with the local community and Mill Hill United Synagogue". Space for 28 children in reception.

Ark Atwood Primary Academy, Westminster

Primary school run by the education charity Ark.

Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, Edmonton, London

"Sister school" to a nearby over-subscribed primary, Cuckoo Hall Academy. Will eventually have 420 pupils.

West London Free School, Hammersmith, London

Mixed, non-selective secondary taking 120 pupils a year, set up by a parents' group led by writer Toby Young, as a "grammar school for all".

Ark Conway Primary Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham

One-form entry school set up by the Ark education charity.

Canary Wharf College, Tower Hamlets

Christian school with an average class size of 20. Open for children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

St Luke's Church of England Primary School, Camden, north London

Parent- and church-led, set up in a church hall, with places for those living closest to the school.

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