Heads of failing schools will be sacked, the Prime Minister has warned.
Gordon Brown told Birmingham MP Richard Burden that a new schools strategy announced this week was designed to raise standards, particularly in schools with the worst results.
He said the Government would take “whatever action needs to be taken” in order to raise standards.
Mr Burden (Lab Northfield) asked the Prime Minister to confirm that failing schools would stay open, following reports earlier this week that up to 27 schools in Birmingham were threatened with closure if results did not improve.
A strategy published on Tuesday by Schools Secretary Ed Balls listed a number of options for schools which appeared unlikely to meet a Government GCSE target, including closure.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Burden said: “In the last 24 hours my right honourable friend may know that a number of papers in Birmingham and elsewhere have been suggesting that the national challenge, announced by the Secretary of State for Schools, Children and Families, will be threatening hundreds of schools with closure, including 27 in Birmingham.
“Would my right honourable friend confirm that is certainly not the intention of the plan, but rather it is to work with teachers, with parents, who are already in most cases making huge efforts to improve and do the right thing by children and raise standards?
“In other words, the intention is to avoid closures.”
Mr Brown told him: “He is absolutely right. The national challenge is to raise every school to a higher standard in this country, and particularly to deal with these schools that are failing schools, to make sure that their results are better, and whatever action needs to be taken in terms of replacing head teachers, or improving the service, is what is part of the national challenge.”
Schools in Birmingham were already getting extra funding, the Prime Minister said. “We want every school pupil in this country to get the best possible education.”
Birmingham MP John Hemming accused the Government of issuing a “crude and destabilising threat” to close schools.
Mr Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) said many of the schools were improving, but the Government’s policy “may make it more difficult to attract good staff and leadership to those schools”.
The Government’s strategy is aimed at ensuring at least 30 per cent of children in every secondary school gains five GCSEs at grades A to C, including English and maths.
Schools which are currently failing to meet the target were labelled “national challenge schools” in the paper published by Mr Balls earlier this week.
Councils were told to draw up action plans for every failing school - and to consider tough measures for any school which appeared unlikely to meet the 30 per cent threshold by 2011.
The strategy stated this could include creating “national challenge trusts” to replace existing schools. It said: “National challenge trusts involve a radical transformation, involving the closure of the existing school, linked to a plan to re-open as a trust school.”
The Government’s strategy listed a number of other options. It said: “Many weak schools are being closed and replaced by an academy.”
It went on: “Amalgamation with a stronger school or closure and no replacement is an option where rolls are falling and where parents prefer alternative schools”.
Less drastic measures included establishing a federation with a more successful school, with a single governing body and “executive headteacher” for both schools.