Despite recent failures and reported under performance, the Department for Education and Skills is pressing on with the specialist schools implementation programme. A further 194 schools have been awarded specialist status bringing the number to 1957 out of a total of 2382 schools. Some 2.5 million students are now benefiting from the programme. As a result of the new additions, seven Local Education Authorities are now fully specialist.The most popular specialism in the newly approved schools is arts with 41 approvals. This is followed by humanities with 28, business and enterprise with 26, sport 24, maths and computing 22, science 19 and technology 10. Just four of the newly approved schools specialise in languages.
Performance figures for 2004 showed that 57.4 per cent of pupils in specialist schools achieved 5 or more grades A*-C at GCSE and equivalent, compared to 48.2 per cent of pupils in non-specialist.
Achieving specialist status requires rigorous self assessment, planning for achievement and developing new partnerships so that the schools can work together and share experiences. Although the schools focus on their chosen subject area they must meet National Curriculum requirements and deliver a broad and balanced education to all pupils. To apply for specialist status they must raise 50,000 pounds in private sector sponsorship and draw up a four-year school and community plan to raise standards, increase provision and encourage take-up in their specialist subjects. Their community development plan will show how they will share the benefits of good practice, expertise and resources with other schools named in the plan and with identified groups within their wider community.