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Specialist Schools

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) for what reasons the criteria for schools to become high performing specialist schools and entitled to a second specialism was changed; (220213)

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of schools that no longer qualify for a second specialism following recent criteria changes; and what assessment he has made of the effect this change will have on (a) school finances and (b) his Department's finances.

In 2008 we maintained the fundamental aspects of the 2007 high performing specialist school (HPSS) criteria but raised minimum thresholds for GCSE 5+ A*-C including English and mathematics. The reasons for these changes were: to reflect the introduction of the national challenge and the Government's target that all secondary schools should have at least 30 per cent. of their pupils achieving five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and mathematics; to ensure that only the top third of re-designated schools qualify for the HPSS programme; and to make the best use of available resources.

We estimate that as at the end of June 2008, the changes to the criteria for HPSS introduced this year impact on eight existing HPSS. These schools still have the opportunity to maintain the status if their 2008 results are above the necessary threshold. Specialist schools receive an additional £60,000 to £90,000 per year depending on the HPSS roles acquired. Schools that do not meet the criteria will retain funding for these additional roles until August 2009 to plan for any loss in funding. The impact on the Department's budget is neutral as we continue to identify new HPSS and remain on schedule to identify a total of 30 per cent. of all specialist schools to take on an additional HPSS role by 2011.