Stories + Views
“Failing Schools”: Do Academies do better?
My recent posts have outlined how the DfE data show that non-academies are getting great results and outperforming academies of similar intake. Those who want to believe that academies are more successful have argued that academies generally take over failing schools and therefore it isn’t a fair comparison.
So let’s compare a similar set of schools. I’ve extracted the data for schools where less than 15% of students achieved 5 GCSEs including English and Maths in 2008. We can argue about figures but can generally agree these schools were not doing well. There were 27 in total, of which 7 became academies and 20 did not.
Now the 7 academies did well, going from an average 13% to 38% in 3 years. That is 1% off tripling their results in three years. On its own that looks pretty impressive, and you can see the DfE press release writing itself. If you state these figures on their own, the picture is of fast increasing academies, with the assumption they’d have stayed static and “failing” if they hadn’t become academies.
But when you look at the comparison schools that picture changes. Their results increased from 12% to 35% between 2008 and 2011, again just 1% off tripling in three years. So poor performing schools are being transformed whatever their status. There is no magic academy effect.
Now the % rise here was indeed slightly higher in the academies (25% v 23%). But look at the figures without the GCSE equivalents (Btecs etc), that Gove derides, and the picture changes: The academies grew from 13% getting 5 GCSEs including English and Maths in 2008 to 18% (without equivalents) in 2011. The non-academies, however, grew from 12% to 21% – a clearly bigger rise.
(Technical note: We don’t have 2008 figures without equivalents so the 2008 data here is with equivalents, while the 2011 are without. But the 2008 data is directly comparable between the two groups, as is the 2011 data.)
The DfE should be delighted with their success in raising school results across the board. The data shows that all disadvantaged schools are increasing their results. But the evidence is clear that, even with clearly under-performing schools, there is no evidence of better performance if schools converted to become an academy.
Postscript: The DfE has commented that this is too small a sample. We therefore did the same analysis on all schools with less than 35%. 46 academies this time. Same result.