NEARLY 1 million children in England attend schools that provide a poor standard of education, according to a report from an influential group of MPs.
The House of Commons Education Committee has acknowledged that there are fewer under-performing schools.
But the Conservative committee chairman, Edward Leigh, said it was a tragedy that more than 1,500 are still defined as under-performing by ministers and school Ofsted inspectors. These included almost a quarter (23%) of the country's secondaries.
Schools minister Jim Knight has denounced the report as an insult to the hard work of teachers and pupils.
He accused the committee of exaggerating the problem by mixing schools that are genuinely failing with others that are simply below average.
The number of schools with under a quarter of pupils gaining five good GCSEs has been slashed from 616 in 1997 to 110 in 2005, and can be expected to halve again in new figures later this week, said Mr Knight.
Today's report, entitled Improving Poorly Performing Schools in England, found that Ofsted classed 49 schools as "underachieving" in July 2005, with another 242 in special measures and 286 with "serious weaknesses". The Department for Education classed 402 schools as "low-attaining" and 578 as "under-performing".