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30/05/13

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The Academies Illusion: What the data reveals

It has become the conventional wisdom, in politics and the press, that academies are an unqualified success and the only route to transform an underperforming school. Analysis of the data does not back up this view. After a reminder of the relative increases in GCSE results in 2012, I look at how different schools use equivalents and likelihood of taking traditional subjects.

Non-academy GCSE results grew as fast as those in similar academies

The Department for Education claimed that GCSE results grew in academies in 2012 by more than five times as much as non-academies. This was based on an increase of 3.1% in academy GCSE results and just 0.6% in non-academies. However the comparison is a false one, as academies are much more likely to start from a lower % in 2011. The graph below compares similar schools, based on their 2011 GCSE results:

For those schools whose GCSE benchmark was in the 20-40% range in 2011, academies increased by 7.8% and maintained schools by 7.7%. Both are great improvements and the schools deserve to be congratulated. However it makes little difference whether the school was an academy or not. The chart shows how the likelihood to increase or decrease their results relates closely to the previous level of results.

Students in academies are more likely to take “equivalent qualifications”:

“Equivalent qualifications” are qualifications like BTECs that can currently count as equivalent to GCSEs and are generally regarded as used to game the system. It was the Daily Telegraph that first spotted that “Academy schools ‘inflate results with easy qualifications'”, finding that 11.8% of academy results were down to equivalents, compared to 6% for non-academies. The gap actually widened in 2012:

2012 Results 5 ACEM GCSE only Difference
Academies 49.3% 34.6% 14.7%
Non-academies 58.0% 50.8% 7.2%

Note: “5 ACEM” refers to % achieving 5 GCSEs including English and Maths.

But this is perhaps an unfair comparison. Sponsored academies are more likely to have started with lower results and schools with lower results are more likely to use equivalents. Do academies make more use of easier equivalents when compared to similar schools? To compare similar schools I have split the DfE data set into ranges according to their 2011 GCSE results, 0-20%, 20-40% and so on. There are only 3 schools in the 0-20% range so the key range for looking at schools in need of improvement is the 20-40% range:

Use of Equivalents 2012 5ACEM 2012 GCSE only Difference
Academies, 20-40% band 41.2% 23.9% 17.3%
Non-academies, 20-40% band 42.1% 30.2% 11.9%

 

For similar schools, academies are still much more likely to achieve their league table GCSE results through equivalents. The 2013 set of exams represent the last year when equivalents can be used in this way. From 2014 very few non-GCSEs will be counted as equivalent, and then only as equivalent to one GCSE. Will we see a dramatic fall in GCSE results in many schools, especially academies, in 2014?

Students in academies are less likely to take history or geography GCSE:

Humanities All schools 20-40% Range
Academies 34.8% 25.2%
Non-academies 48.7% 35.3%

 

One of Michael Gove’s favourite topics is the lack of history teaching in British schools. Yet the schools in which students are least likely to study history or geography are the sponsored academies – even when compared to similar schools, in the same results band.

Students in academies are less likely to take a language GCSE:

Languages All schools 20-40% Range
Academies 23.6% 13.0%
Non-academies 37.0% 19.2%

 

The same is true of languages. Students are less likely to take a language GCSE if they are in a sponsored academy.

Academies: More of their GCSE count come from equivalents

20-40% range No. of GCSEs w/out equiv
Academies                11.4                         5.2
Non-academies                11.4                         6.2

 

In both academies and non-academies in this range (of 2011 GCSE results) students take an average 11.4 GCSEs if equivalents are included. However this figure reduces dramatically, and falls by a greater amount in academies, once equivalents are taken out. Students take an average 5.2 actual GCSEs in these academies and 6.2 in these non-academies. This has big implcations for results in 2014. Have these schools changed their strategies for the current Year 10s, and increased the number of GCSEs they are taking?

Conclusion: Academies are not transformative

The supporters of academies like to paint a picture of a completely different sort of school, bringing new opportunities to communities whose schools would otherwise be failures. The data does not back up this view. Students in sponsored academies are less likely to take the humanities and language GCSEs that our Secretary of State is so keen to promote. Many are doing well and have seen significant growth in GCSE results. However this increase is just as large in similar non-academies and is more likely in academies not to be based on actual GCSE exams.

 

Data Notes

All the data here is taken from the DfE dataset on the 2012 GCSE results, released in January 2013. There were 73 academies and 175 non-academies in the 20-40% range used here. This is all schools who achieved between 20% and 40% in 2011 for the % of students achieving 5 GCSEs including English and Maths (including equivalent qualifications).

The more recent converter academies have not been included here. This is partly because there were very few (just 16) in the 20-40% range in 2011. But also because these converted principally from Good or Outstanding schools and so do not address the issue of how the schools in need of improvement are tackling their challenges.

 

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Roger Titcombe says:

    Quite so Henry. This has been going on for some time. See this 2009 paper by Anastasia de Waal of Civitas.

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/secrets_success_academies.pdf

  2. Sally mallison says:

    Converter, sponsor, independent, underachieving, charitable, trust, community of schools miles apart as far as I can see they are all forced, and unwanted by the majority of those involved.
    I can only hope those with the authority look at your statistics!

  3. Jon Rawle says:

    The only real consensus on the data is that it is far too early to judge except in the case of long established academies where the results for the most disadvantaged were beneficial.

    Academies Commission 2013 key finding:

    ‘There was the positive finding too that pupils eligible for free school meals who were
    in academies that had been open the longest achieved higher results than similar pupils in other state-funded schools. The message here is that change takes time.’

    Public Accounts Committee on the Academies Programme in 2013:

    ‘While it is too early to assess the impact of the expansion on school performance, the Department will need to be able to demonstrate whether value for money has been achieved.’

    The Academies Programme: Progress, Problems and Possibilities. Sutton Trust 2008:

    ‘PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) records that GCSE attainment has tended to have improved at a greater rate in Academies than the national average and amongst similar schools. The National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee evaluations also broadly praised the progress in GCSE attainment in Academies.’

  4. Jon Rawle says:

    Come on! I am a parent whose children have had a really very poor education at the local state school. The Academy program is an attempt to turn this dreadful state of affairs around round, supported by all political parties.

    Why the constant criticism when the well established academies are doing well and it is far too early to say whether or not the new ones will also do well?

    What is the agenda here?

    Really?

    A two minute trawl yields yet another report saying that the Academy effect is beneficial but takes time to show through, in exactly the same way as the benefits of free schools in Sweden are only now becoming readily apparent:

    ‘Our results suggest that moving to a more autonomous school structure through academy conversion generates a significant improvement in the quality of their pupil intake and a significant improvement in pupil performance.

    We also find significant external effects on the pupil intake and the pupil performance of neighbouring schools. All of these results are strongest for the schools that
    have been academies for longer and for those who experienced the largest increase in their school autonomy.

    In essence, the results paint a (relatively) positive picture of the academy schools that
    were introduced by the Labour government of 1997‐2010. The caveat is that such benefits have, at least for the schools we consider,taken a while to materialise.’

    http://cee.lse.ac.uk/ceedps/ceedp123.pdf

    • An anecdote from one parent does not constitute evidence of systemic failure. Henry’s data analysis shows that non Academies perform as well if not better than Academies. It’s already been shown that the government misuse international data to bolster their shaky claims for Academy success.

      The overwhelming majority of Academies are convertors which were predominantly doing well anyway in the maintained sector meaning that the potential for further improvement was limited. How does this massive cost reflect value for money in improving those schools where most improvement was needed. Wouldn’t this money have been better spent on doing those things that have been shown conclusively to make a difference rather than something (change of status) which can claim no such benefits.

      You can make no comparison between Labour and Tory Academies – they are entirely different beasts driven by entirely different political (rather than educational) agenda.

      • Roger Titcombe says:

        Sorry Sarah, the political ideology behind Blair’s Labour Academies was identical to Gove’s. Without Blair there could never have been Academies and Free Schools.

        • I agree that Labour opened the door to this policy but it was at least notionally related to school improvement – the same cannot be said for allowing already outstanding schools to convert status. The only conclusion one can reach is that Gove is working to an altogether different agenda around the preparation for privatisation of the state education sector and the erosion of local democratic accountability for schools.

      • Jon Rawle says:

        It does however provide the motivation to have a good tilt at the self congratulatory nay saying, doom mongering, self licking lollypops (with one or two honourable exceptions) standing out against education reform who populate this site

        • Nobody here is standing out against educational reform. It’s just that people with a passion for education quite rightly expect education policy to be evidence based rather than ideologically driven. It’s not nay-saying to expect that if billions are going to be invested in policy reform there should be overwhelming evidence to substantiate the arguments in favour of it. No such evidence exists. What Gove does is cherry pick elements of international educational systems which suit his particular political agenda and then try to shoe-horn the limited evidence to make a case for it. The country is apparently on its financial knees but he can be allowed to overspend against the Academies programme by £1billion when there is NO credible evidence that what he is doing will have any significant impact whatsoever on outcomes for children but a very significant risk that dismantling the system will lead to a more incoherent, fractured system that does not serve parents, particularly of the most vulnerable children, any better than what already exists.

          Gove sees nothing wrong with twisting and misinterpreting statistics, bullying schools that recognise there is no gain from Academy status, abusing his opponents and ignoring the fantastic amount of good work being undertaken by some excellent maintained schools. He doesn’t visit them, he doesn’t praise them, the DfE website barely even acknowledges their existence any more despite the vast majority of schools still being maintained schools.

          It’s reprehensible behaviour and I applaud those like Henry and Janet who put a more balanced statistical analysis out there for people to see.

          I can’t help feeling that you are in denial about what’s going on – perhaps for your own political reasons.

          • Jon Rawle says:

            These reforms started way back when under Andrew Adonis:

            ‘Free schools are Labour’s invention. They were a crucial part of our drive to promote equality of opportunity and social mobility, particularly in disadvantaged communities with low educational standards. Independent report after report has shown that they work, and most of them are wildly popular with parents, so the issue for Labour is how we take them forward, not whether we are for or against them.

            Just to be clear about the parentage, free schools are simply – and legally – academies without an immediate predecessor state school. They are either new academies starting from scratch in terms of pupils and teachers, or private schools coming into the state-funded sector by means of academy legal status.’

            ‘Academies were also inspired by the old Labour values of education as emancipation, the ideal of a good school on every doorstep. They were introduced by David Blunkett, whose own childhood shaped his view that poor students deserved better. Under his long watch as education secretary (1997-2001), he also oversaw the introduction of education action zones and Fresh Start, another initiative aimed at the lowest-attaining schools.’

            http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/academy-schools-labour-investmen/#.UanVzUBQFic

            The commentators here are by no means balanced.

            Anyone posting differing opinions is automatically accused of a political agenda.

            Inconveniently, however, I am simply a parent whose children experienced at first hand the hopeless inadequacy of much state educational provision.

            The only reform suggested here is the setting up of some nebulous, toothless, educational commission.

            Fiddling while Rome burns.

            Take a look at your own political motivations. I have none, only a desire for all children to have the chance to be taught by good teachers in decent schools.

    • Roger Titcombe says:

      Jon – Anecdotes don’t tell you much. Local newspapers in Cumbria have logged more than 3000 seriously negative posts about the county’s Academy schools. Yes really. The most successful academies like Mossbourne rely on IQ test driven admission systems not open to the schools they replaced. Academies’ results improved more rapidly than LA schools because of the exploitation of the vocational scam, which was secret until Academies became liable to FOI relatively recently. LA schools soon caught on. The associated curriculum degradation was picked up by Academies’ terrible performance in Gove’s Ebacc. Take a read of Anastasia de Waal’s paper. Civitas is no lefty pressure group

      http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/secrets_success_academies.pdf

      The most incredible thing is not Academies’ results but the success of the PR spin from Labour and Conservative governments that all sections of the media shamefully swallowed. The truth is now out. Where there is a significant Academies effect it is negative.

      Yes, really.

    • A Cooper says:

      John don’t believe all you read about the benefits of Swedish free schools.

      I have first hand experience of putting two children through the Swedish free school system, in Sweden. It is a system that has failed to support a child with SEN and a system that has failed to support a gifted child. Even moving from the north to the south of Sweden did nothing to rectify the situation. So that the youngest child does not meet the same fate the family will be moving to RoI as soon as possible.

  5. Philip Wood says:

    I suppose though it is important to distinguish the various stages of the academy development. The original academies had huge investment, new buildings and very often a whole new senior leadership team. The question is whether it is the conversion itself, or the huge support that those academies received that improved them.

    I’m certain that it was the investment and leadership that was most important and this could have been done in maintained schools just as well as in academies. We know what good schools look like – great teaching, great leadership & governance, collaboration and high standards, and there is no reason for suggesting that only academies can have these qualities.

    I think when you’re spending £8bn on something, it’s good to have the evidence first.

    • Jon Rawle says:

      Probably best to speak to Lord Adonis on this but I believe his Academy program was inspired by the evidence of success of the U.S. charter schools:

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/04/01/kipp-charter-schools-editorials-debates/2044375/

      The gallant Lord has few doubts, himself, as to the merits of the program he started:

      Mossbourne, flagship of the academy fleet and a catalyst for the transformation of the secondary education system in Hackney and much of inner London, is a free school.

      Its outstanding founder principal, Michael Wilshaw, became chief inspector of schools at the start of this year because of his work at Mossbourne – a formidable compliment to Labour’s free school policy.

      The Belvedere Academy in Liverpool, up there with Mossbourne among the most inspirational all-ability comprehensives in England, is a free school.

      It was the first independent school to come into the state sector under the academies programme (in 2007), dropping all fees and the eleven-plus and becoming a community comprehensive in admissions while retaining its independent governance.

      It was a catalyst for a string of other excellent private schools to become academies, which all also dropped selection and fees. More are following suit under the “free school” label.

      This is profoundly in the national interest, to promote educational quality and equality, which is what Labour stands for.

      Let’s be clear about three other points.

      First, free schools are not-for-profit. The Tories would need to change the law to allow profit-making, and I would oppose this.

      Second, free schools are comprehensive schools. Like all academies, they are not allowed to select by academic ability. Again, this is the law and I would oppose any change.’

      Any political party, indeed anyone involved in education, need look no further for a steady hand on the tiller of education policy in this country.

      • Free Schools can outsource everything (including teaching and learning) to profit making organisations.

        Free Schools and Academies have been shown to have admissions policies which are more likely to breach admissions rules and to cherry pick the more able pupils from the more affluent homes.

        ‘A steady hand on the tiller’ – you must be joking. Gove is a disaster – the system any new government will inherit will be fragmented, incoherent and not showing any significant improvement on the previous set of arrangements.

        • Jon Rawle says:

          ‘Probably best to speak to Lord Adonis on this but I believe his Academy program was inspired by the evidence of success of the U.S. charter schools’

          ‘This is profoundly in the national interest, to promote educational quality and equality, which is what Labour stands for.’

          ‘Any political party, indeed anyone involved in education, need look no further for a steady hand on the tiller of education policy in this country.’

      • A guest says:

        Belvedere Academy has 65% high ability children and 1% low ability children according to the DFE Performance table site. It could hardly be described as an all ability comprehensive school. Are Belvedere and Mossbourne Free schools?

        • Parent2 says:

          I noticed that a recent parliamentary briefing paper on grammar schools mentioned a new free school, Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School as ‘The first new state-funded selective school for many years’. No other free schools and very few voluntary aided schools are categorised as such, even where they select according to religion.

          http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN01398

      • Roger Titcombe says:

        Sorry Jon – there simply is no sound evidence for a positive academy effect. There is plenty of evidence of huge increases in unaccountable public spending on this mirage. What did/does Adonis know about education? He is quite good on trains. What evidence is there of success of America’s Charter Schools? Or Sweden’s Free Schools come to that?

        When you have been conned, the natural reaction is denial.

  6. Jon Rawle says:

    You just don’t want to hear it:

    ‘An increase in the share of independent-school students improves average educational performance both at the end of compulsory school and in the long run in terms of high school grades, university attendance and years of schooling…

    These effects are very robust with respect to a number of potential issues, such as grade inflation and pre-reform trends. Interestingly, it appears that these positive effects are primarily due to spill-over or competition effects and not that independent-school students gain significantly more than public school students.

    Notably, because it has taken time for the independent schools to become more than a marginal phenomenon in Sweden, we have only been able to detect statistically significant positive effects for later years (about a decade after the reform).’

    http://www.ifau.se/Upload/pdf/se/2012/wp12-19-Independent-schools-and-long-run-educational-outcomes.pdf

    • Jon Rawle says:

      There have been numerous exchanges between LSN and Gabriel H. Sahlgren on the evidence from Sweden.

      The ball is back in the LSN court:

      ‘The next step for those wanting to question my findings is to provide new research showing that for-profit free schools are in fact bad. So far, no such evidence has been presented.’

      http://www.iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/files/Schooling%20for%20money%20-%20web%20version_0.pdf

      • Jon Rawle says:

        The fact of the matter is that Charter Schools in the U.S. are now, demonstrably, a success, free schools in Sweden are now, demonstrably, a success, early Academies in England are now demonstrably a success and, for the rest, it is far too early to judge.

        The opposition here is a perverse and purblind attempt to ignore reality.

        The only real and valid criticism of the Academy program might be one of value for money.

        With Ms Hodge on the Parliamentary public accounts committee, you might be able to make that stand up in due course but even she says it is far too early to make that judgement.

        Providing one or two examples of Academy failures, using the example of poor schools that have failed to improve over a couple of years, is, at best, weak.

        What I would like to know is what, really, is the agenda that lies behind all this noise?

        From where I stand, I can’t see how, whatever that agenda is, it can have anything to do with the welfare of the most disadvantaged children in this country.

        That is a concern.

        • Roger Titcombe says:

          Jon – Evidence must be respected, but there are critics.

          This is from Wikipedia.

          Some observers, such as the authors of The Charter School Dust-Up,[18] say that KIPP’s admission process self-screens for students who are motivated and compliant and come from similarly motivated, compliant as well as supportive families. The 2010 Mathematica Policy Research study found that KIPP schools had a “lower concentration of special education and limited English proficiency students than the public schools from which they draw.”[19]

          In addition, some KIPP schools show high rates of attrition, especially for those students entering the schools with the lowest test scores. A 2008 study by SRI International found that while KIPP fifth-grade students who enter with below-average scores significantly outperform peers in public schools by the end of year one, “… 60 percent of students who entered fifth grade at four Bay Area KIPP schools in 2003-04 left before completing eighth grade”

          • Jon Rawle says:

            With the greatest of respect, that entry in Wikipedia (perhaps not the first port of call for an authoritative reference) may need updating.

            This from the Feb. 2013 report referenced above:

            ‘On average, KIPP schools serve student populations that have high
            concentrations of black students relative to the elementary schools that feed
            them. KIPP schools have a much higher proportion of black students (65 percent) than
            feeder schools (46 percent). They have a slightly smaller proportion of Latino or
            Hispanic students (31 percent) than do feeder schools (34 percent).’

            ‘On most identifiable characteristics, the students entering KIPP schools look much like those in their neighborhoods: low-achieving, low-income, and non-white. The typical KIPP student scored at the 45th percentile within the district in reading and math prior to entering KIPP, an achievement level that is also significantly lower than the average in their own elementary schools.’

            ‘On average, students leave KIPP schools prior to middle school completion at about the
            same rate as students at other middle schools in the same districts. Many KIPP students take longer to get to high school, however—KIPP students are more likely than those at local district schools to repeat a grade.’

        • Jon, my agenda in publishing this data is simple: To reveal what the data says, rather than what ideology suggests. The data used above shows clearly that while there has been improvements in previously under-performing schools, this has been very similar in both academies and non-academies – but it is much more likely in non-academies to be based on actual GCSEs.

          Charter Schools in the US? The CREDO review of charter schools across 40 states found that 17% were significantly better than average, 46% were around the average and 37% were significantly below average. Earlier this year a report by Stanford University found that charter status had little impact, finding that schools that start ‘bad’ stay ‘bad’. Indeed Greg Richmond, who leads the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, admitted that ”in the charter school space, too often there’s a willingness to give failing charter schools more time,”

          Sweden? Have you seen the article in the Guardian today about the school chain that has gone bust, leaving 10,000 students in limbo. And far from being a success, the charter experiment there has led to Sweden falling down the international tables.

          By the way Mossbourne is not a free school. It is an academy.

          Jon, we share a commitment to not-for-profit comprehensive schools. I would just ask you to see the wide-ranging improvement that has taken place in non-academies, especially in London. Indeed if we want comprehensive school improvement we would do better to learn the lessons of school improvement in the capital than the far more mixed picture from academies.

          And, on the international scene, let’s learn from the actual top performers – like Finland and South Korea – rather than the far more mixed success from Sweden and the US.

          • Ed Banks says:

            As the EIU report, the learning curve makes clear, ‘General lessons to be drawn…..looking at high-performing school systems, “I don’t detect many similarities other than high standards, solid curriculum, competent teachers and a supportive culture that is education minded.” Other research might point to the importance of school choice and school autonomy.’

            The success of non academies in London may not translate to other such schools outside the capital unless national pay scales are reformed to allow local increments to recruit a higher calibre of teacher.

            ‘I would suggest that London schools have strikingly good governance because they are able to draw on a large pool of highly skilled, well educated people (many of whom do not send their children to local schools).

            They also benefit from some innovative sponsor input from the (original) academies programme and greatly draw on their own networks of expertise to share best practice through programmes such as London Challenge.

            However, I doubt this is sufficient to explain why London’s performance is so strong.

            …..75% of teachers are women. Some of these women will be in dual earning households with a partner in a professional job.

            Where this is the case their household’s geographical mobility will be restricted by their capacity to both find jobs in a new region.

            There is every conceivable type of professional job available in London, but far fewer in a city like Stoke or Blackpool.

            This might explain why Stoke schools don’t have the pick the country’s greatest teachers, despite the low cost of living.’ (Reference above)

            Please reference your evidence on charter schools in the U.S.

            This was published in April 2013 by USA Today:

            ‘But as evidence from the 20-year-old charter experiment mounts, the snipers are in need of a new argument. There’s little doubt left that top-performing charters have introduced new educational models that have already achieved startling results in even the most difficult circumstances.’

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/04/01/kipp-charter-schools-editorials-debates/2044375/

            Regarding Sweden, you must talk to one of your other contributors, Ms Downs, about falling down the international tables. She is an expert in refuting any such events with regard to this country as I’m sure she could do in the case of Sweden, if it supported her arguments!

            In the meantime, have a look at this, from a report, Independent schools and
            long-run educational outcomes, published last year:

            ‘Our positive estimates might appear surprising given Sweden’s relative decline in
            scores on international tests such as PISA since the mid 1990s. However, we do not find
            significant positive effects for the earlier years, when Swedish relative test scores
            declined most dramatically.

            Additionally, because we look at variation across municipalities it can very well be the case that the municipalities with few or no independent schools have contributed most to this decline. Either way, we do not find any support for the belief that an increase in the share of independent school students provides an explanation for Sweden’s relative decline.’

            The closure of JB Education in Sweden is indeed desperate news for some of its pupils, but for nothing like as many as you suggest

            Of the 31 schools run by JB education, 4 are closing due to a lack of students and 3 more are at risk of closure. The other 24 have new owners. Your figure of 10,000 students is the total figure of JB education enrolled students.

            I’m sure that your figures in your piece above are rather better substantiated.

            Nevertheless similar events have been happening in the private educational sector in this country for some time.

            I can find no evidence of this website making any complaint or even comment in that regard.

            Not much sign of a genuine concern for students here then so, I ask again, what exactly is the agenda?

            By the way, ‘Mossbourne, flagship of the academy fleet and a catalyst for the transformation of the secondary education system in Hackney and much of inner London, is a free school.’

            ‘Labour set up dozens such “free school” academies before 2010. The only reason why the Tories invented the term “free school” was to pretend they were doing something fundamentally different, instead of continuing one of Labour’s most successful policies.’

            says Andrew Adonis. He should know. He invented them!

        • “The only real and valid criticism of the Academy program might be one of value for money.”

          Apart from considering value for money we could, of course,
          consider what it was that the two academy programs were supposed to achieve and analyse
          – whether they have achieved them and
          – whether they were coherent objective

          Would you like to attempt to do that Jon?

          • Jon Rawle says:

            Not at all.

            It’s far too early to make those kind of judgements, as the Academies Commission, The Sutton Trust, the LSE, the Parliamentary Public Accounts committee, keep pointing out.

            The piece here will eventually make a contribution to those assessments but any really broad and conclusive analysis is still another 8 or so years down the road.

  7. Parent2 says:

    There are over 50 sponsor-led secondary academies currently rated inadequate by Ofsted, of the ones that have been inspected. And the recent bankruptcy of one of the largest Swedish free school chains is hardly a success.

  8. Jon – reply to your comment citing the LSE report which painted a “relatively-positive picture” of Labour’s academy programme.

    The reseachers who produced the report said in the report that their conclusions could NOT be used to justify the Coalition’s converter academies programme. Professor Stephen Machin, one of the report’s co-authors, has expressed annoyance about the way the findings have been hijacked by the present Government to justify its policy of academy conversion.

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/04/using-evidence-from-labour%e2%80%99s-sponsored-academies-to-justify-government%e2%80%99s-programme-of-converter-academies-is-%e2%80%9cstep-too-far%e2%80%9d-says-academic/

    • Jon Rawle says:

      The piece above discusses the Academy program in general.

      The LSE report referenced above is yet another authoritative statement that it is far too early to judge the success or otherwise of the Academy program.

      ‘In essence, the results paint a (relatively) positive picture of the academy schools that
      were introduced by the Labour government of 1997‐2010. The caveat is that such benefits have, at least for the schools we consider,taken a while to materialise.’

      I am trying to understand what lies behind the constant criticism of the Academy program on this forum when the broad consensus elsewhere is that it is far too early to make a considered judgement on the results of that program.

      It seems, at the very least, unbalanced.

  9. Ed – re Sweden. See faq above “What does a January 2013 review of evidence say about market intervention in education in Sweden and Chile?”. You’ll find that the Academies Commission found it difficult to come to a conclusion about Sweden’s free schools. One of the authors of a complimentary report said the findings couldn’t be applied to other countries because cricumstances were not the same. At the same time the Commission cited Cook (FT 2012) who found the improved educational performance attributed to the Swedish free school programme was extremely modest and the slight positive effects were “not very impressive given the scale of the policy intervention.”

    I have emailed Bertil Ostberg, a senior civil servant in Sweden’s Education Ministry, who told the BBC (2012) that his Government was setting up an inquiry into the motivation of the for-profit firms that run most of Sweden’s free schools. I wanted to know how the inquiry was progressing. I haven’t received a reply yet. I will post it on LSN when I have.

    In the meantime, we have heard that one of Sweden’s for-proft free school providers has shut down because the private equity firm that owned the provider won’t support its losses.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/may/31/free-schools-education

    • Ed Banks says:

      I’m not too keen on your FAQ answers.

      Cook of the FT’s essential point is:

      ‘just show me their exam results at 11, ethnicity, birth month and poverty levels, and I can do a pretty good job of guessing where they will end up. And knowing things about their schools adds very little. This does not mean that education journalists should let teachers off the hook, but we need to talk more about parenting, society and culture.’

      I very much agree with that.

      Of course that is the very problem that the Academy program aims to rectify, arguably an impossible task without sweeping reforms to the economy and the welfare system.

      Private schools have been opening and closing with the utmost regularity in this country without a mention on this website.

      Why on earth, then, would you refer to such a closure in Sweden, particularly in view of your remarks elsewhere that ‘ talking about these countries when the subject is the performance of England’s academies is really irrelevant.’ ?

      What is the agenda here?

  10. Ed – your comment above quoted from a Working Paper by Anders Böhlmark
    Mikael Lindahl. It was Böhlmark who was cited by the Academies Commission as saying that evidence from Sweden shouldn’t be applied to other countries.

    http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/1217194.PDF

    An earlier version of the Working Paper was discussed in comments on this thread (scroll down to Keith Turvey’s comment):

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/11/mixed-messages-from-sweden/

    • Ed Banks says:

      The assertion that ‘far from being a success, the charter experiment there has led to Sweden falling down the international tables.’ is plainly wrong:

      ‘we do not find any support for the belief that an increase in the share of independent school students provides an explanation for Sweden’s relative decline.’ (reference above).

      The question ‘What evidence is there of success of ….. Sweden’s Free Schools come to that?’ is easily answered;

      ‘We find that an increase in the share of independent-school students improves
      average educational performance both at the end of compulsory school and in the long
      run in terms of high school grades, university attendance and years of schooling. We
      further show that these effects are very robust with respect to a number of potential
      issues, such as grade inflation and pre-reform trends. Interestingly, it appears that these
      positive effects are primarily due to spill-over or competition effects’ (reference above)

      When you then remark: ‘It was Böhlmark who was cited by the Academies Commission as saying that evidence from Sweden shouldn’t be applied to other countries.’ of what relevance to the discussion is that and to which attempt to apply evidence from Sweden to other countries are you referring?

      I see that Keith Turvey was invited to make criticisms of the paper concerned as part of its (already considerable) review process but signally failed to do so.

      ‘The purpose of the Working Paper Series is to provide a factual basis for public policy and the public policy discussion.’

  11. Ed – this thread is actually about the data crunched by Henry which showed that sponsored academies in England have not done as well as is widely reported. But instead of talking about England the discussion has roamed globally via USA and Sweden.

    So, talking about these countries when the subject is the performance of England’s academies is really irrelevant. It was Jon Rawle who introduced Sweden into the discussion and you who cited Böhlmark and Lindahl (although you produced no link, just an unreferenced cut-and-paste).

    However, I answered your questions re Sweden as a courtesy since it was directed to me. But if you are now saying that Sweden is irrelevant to this discussion, I would entirely agree with you.

    • Ed Banks says:

      To recap:

      Article: ‘Academies are not transformative’

      J.R.: ‘The only real consensus on the data is that it is far too early to judge except in the case of long established academies where the results for the most disadvantaged were beneficial.’

      R.T.: ‘there simply is no sound evidence for a positive academy effect. What evidence is there of success of America’s Charter Schools? Or Sweden’s Free Schools come to that?’

      J.R.: The evidence is there, referenced to USA Today and Böhlmark and Lindahl

      And so and so forth

      I agree with the broad consensus of the Academies Commission, The Sutton Trust, The Public Accounts Committee, The London School of Economics and Uncle Tom Cobley that change takes time but that the achievements of Academies of long standing are generally beneficial to disadvantaged pupils, as they were designed to be.

      • Roger Titcombe says:

        Ed – School improvement is a statistical minefield. Even if Charter Schools and Sweden’s Free School have positive features how do you know what they are and which are significant. I have been researching school improvement in England since 2005, our first study being sponsored and published by TES. Warwick Mansell was our TES co-worker at the time. We researched the 2004 DfES list of the 100 most improved schools and found that the most improved were also strongly associated with a number of very important negative outcomes that did not appear in the performance tables or anywhere else.

        Even when you find valid correspondences this is not evidence of causality. Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence and it is certainly not there in the case of English Academies. I don’t know much about Charter Schools or Free Schools except that there are claims and counter claims. Scepticism seems sensible.

        I am not complacent in any way. I share your view that standards are falling in English schools and that this is reflected especially in PISA. However I am clear that your solutions based on marketisation are actually the cause of the decline that began with the 1988 Education Reform Act, and the more the medicine has been applied the worse the patient has got. The bleeding doctors react to the decline in the patient’s health by applying more bleeding because not enough blood was taken. Obviously.

        I am quite sure from my own experience in schools that dissatisfaction with the English comprehensive education system was low until the 1988 disaster, but has since gathered pace with ever-increasing intensity as the bleeding doctors have been let loose on the system in ever greater numbers under Conservative and New Labour governments.

        Exactly the same pattern can be seen in the NHS, but that is another story. Except in Scotland. Funny that. But then the 1988 Education Act did not apply to Scotland (and the Scottish NHS does not have a market driven provider/purchaser split either).

        The three main reasons all the non-educational bodies you mention have been taken in by the Academy PR masterspin are as follows.

        1. They have taken no account of curriculum degradation and the vocational scam.
        2. They have taken no account of the fundamental role of IQ test driven, banded admissions systems, that with the exception of Hackney, only apply to Academies.
        3. The many perverse and negative outcomes have failed to register with educationally naïve investigators, and/or are hard to quantify.

        I am therefore confident that you are wrong. I am also happy to predict that the evidence against the English Academy and Free School experiment will continue to mount.

      • A Cooper says:

        To repeat myself and to be quite blunt: Swedish free schools are at best mediocre and at worst a sham.

        Unless you have direct experience of putting your child through the Swedish education system, then I am afraid you are not qualified to make claims that Swedish free schools are improving standards of education in Sweden. They have certainly failed two children in our family and we will not allow them to ruin the education of a third.

        A couple of examples to highlight how the Swedish free school system has let the family down: child number one’s secondary school teacher was ill so the whole class was sent home because the school could not afford a supply teacher. Homework is rarely set and communication between home and school is infrequent. Child number one passed the 11+ in England and was identified as a gifted child. There is no such distinction made in Swedish schools and thus child number one’s learning has slowed as a result. Indeed, in the equivalent of year 9, child number one scored the highest mark in the Swedish exams, out ranking the native speakers. The principal remarked that this was probably due to the good level of literacy teaching they had been exposed to in the UK.

        In child number two’s primary school class work has never been marked and children rarely get feedback about their progress. As a result child number two (who was identified as having SEN at SA in the UK) has been held back a year due to lack of specific support. School security is non-existent and members of the public are able to walk in and out of the school without being challenged; the school does not possess a reception area or employ a school secretary as they are expensive add-ons. All administration is undertaken by teachers which means records are lost or not up-dated regularly.

        You might think that these are isolated incidents, perhaps due to the geographical situation of the schools concerned. However, the family have moved from the North to the South of Sweden and nothing has changed, indeed the problems seem far worse in the more urban South.

        Perhaps, you would care to share some real-life examples of good practice in the Swedish free school system, to balance my argument.

        • Ed Banks says:

          I have the utmost sympathy for you, having had similar problems for my children within the UK state educational system.

          However you won’t find any sympathy from many other contributors on here.

          All you will get is the same tired old argument:

          ‘An anecdote from one parent does not constitute evidence of systemic failure.’

          You will also not find me defending the Swedish free school system.

          As you rightly say, I know nothing about it.

          However, if someone tries to argue that free schools in England must be rubbish because they are rubbish in Sweden, firstly I point to Swedish reports indicating that Swedish free schools are not in fact rubbish.

          I then quote the Financial Times:

          ‘This does not matter much politically. As it happens, Sweden is not, in truth, very relevant to the UK. England does not really have anything akin to the Swedish school reform – and no-one intends to introduce anything like it. The converter academies, sponsor academies and free schools are related to the Swedish system in much the same way that I am a close intimate of Edward III.’

          ….show me their exam results at 11, ethnicity, birth month and poverty levels, and I can do a pretty good job of guessing where they will end up. And knowing things about their schools adds very little……we need to talk more about parenting, society and culture.’

          The education reforms in this country are designed to help the most disadvantaged.

          The jury is out and will be for some time but indications are that the earliest academies have served the most disadvantaged well so far, as they were designed to do.

          As for Sweden, this forum has been invited to contribute evidence showing generally adverse effects of the Swedish education reforms.

          Currently the evidence indicates otherwise:

          ‘Given that hitherto presented research – which I have extended to include for-profit free schools – finds positive effects of school competition in Sweden, these problems would probably have had a larger negative impact on educational performance had it not been for school competition.

          The evidence of declining performance in international ratings during the 1990s is bad news for those who argue that school competition is a panacea.

          But those of us who do not argue this would still conclude that competition has been beneficial.

          The next step for those wanting to question my findings is to provide new research showing that for-profit free schools are in fact bad.

          So far, no such evidence has been presented, and I therefore conclude that fears of the profit motive in education reform, at least in the Swedish context, are unfounded.’

          I cannot comment, only offer up the available research:

          http://www.iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/files/Schooling%20for%20money%20-%20web%20version_0.pdf

          • Ed I’m startled to hear that you have a child with SEN who’s been held back due to support not being available. Could you explain a little more about what’s going on there? It’s not something I’ve heard about.

            I’m also startled that you’ve been unable to do anything for your gifted child. I’ve known many UK parents who’ve been worked about their children being stretched but in most cases they’ve been able to work with the school to ensure things improve for their child. Have you tried all the options here? If no please feel free to explain what’s happened and we’ll try to help.

            A Cooper – I’m sorry you’ve had these problems. One of my Swedish friends tells me that she things part of the problem is that as a society the Swedish seem to have become obsessed with the idea that both parents should work full time, so there is much less parental involvement with schools and education and this is causing a deterioration in quality. I’d be interested to hear your perspective on this as I’ve been unable to triangulate her comments.

          • Ed Banks says:

            Thank you for your concern.

            I was forced to take them all out of state schools and they have since prospered.

            Your remarks about the effect of two working parents or, in many cases, only one parent, who also works full time, are interesting.

            I wonder if there is any research on the effect that has?

          • It’s challenging to try to construct the paramaters of what such research should consider Ed. It’s easy to look at, say, GCSE results but as an observer I suspect the issues are much deeper.

            I watch how parents mature as parents and as people as they are involved with their communities through their child’s education. They come to understand, deeply know and to be deeply empowered to resolve local issues. The learn how to properly parent their children by paying close attention to them as individuals, by nurturing their strengths and by intervening to prevent social and confidence issues becoming pernicious. Because they know the local community they become confident in dealing with other people’s children as well. The become the strong people in society.

            While bought in childcare can be enough for our children, is it enough for our parents? Does it matter that many of them are missing out on this experience? I think it matters hugely but I don’t know of studies which understand this perspective and which attempt to analyse it.

            I’m glad your children are thriving now. I had to shift school when I was small and that was a good experience. It didn’t need to be private though.

          • Tubby Isaacs says:

            “The jury is out and will be for some time but indications are that the earliest academies have served the most disadvantaged well so far, as they were designed to do”

            They had money and political capital thrown at them.

  12. Ed Banks says:

    I may very well be wrong. I often am. But, in this case, I have reserved my position until a conclusion on Academies can eventually be reached after another 8 years or so.

    That is why I am so puzzled by the amount of hostility to the Academies program, which, given the less than optimal standard of much state education in this country, seems, at best, eccentric.

    A lot of the contributions here appear to be fiddling about at the margins.

    The real answers to improving the lot of the disadvantaged lie in major policy initiatives to do with enterprise, encouraging the private sector, welfare reform, and targeted immigration controls. Much of these are constrained by EU membership which also needs addressing.

    Mr Cook of the FT makes this argument well:

    ‘I can explain two-thirds (65 per cent) of the variation in children’s exam results without looking at their schools….

    So just show me their exam results at 11, ethnicity, birth month and poverty levels, and I can do a pretty good job of guessing where they will end up. And knowing things about their schools adds very little.

    ……..we need to talk more about parenting, society and culture.’

    He has the EIU on his side:

    “a lot of these things [determinants of academic success] are not amenable to government action. They are really within families and how society operates.”

    ‘In seeking those solutions, officials also need a dose of humility, remembering that formal education can do only so much.’

    ‘education remains an art, and much of what engenders quality is difficult to quantify.’

    Given that politics have no place in discussions concerning the welfare of children and their education, what drives all this animosity?

    • Ed Banks says:

      Suddenly I understand:

      ‘Established by a coalition of the unions, direct action groups and single issue campaigners, the People’s Assembly is the Left-wing equivilant of the bar from Star Wars. Every oddball, nutjob and bounty hunter in the galaxy is beating a path to its door.’

      A People’s Assembly can play a key role in ensuring that this uncaring government faces a movement of opposition broad enough and powerful enough to generate successful coordinated action, including strike action”.

      Since the initial announcement of a People’s Assembly to take place on June 22, the National Union of Teachers has been involved in supporting and helping give form to the concept.

      ‘As Alex Kenny of the NUT national executive puts it, “The NUT is committed to this project. Christine [Blower, general secretary] and Kevin [Courtney, her deputy] signed the initial letter and we are giving our full support to making it happen.”

      When asked what NUT members and others can do to support the People’s Assembly, Kenny is not short on ideas.

      “We need to situate our strike action within the broader community campaign to defend our public services.”

      http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/an-initiative-whose-time-has-come/

    • Roger Titcombe says:

      Ed – The reason why average school attainment is frequently so low in poor communities is because these communities produce such a high proportion of low cognitive ability children. This is a fact revealed by CATs scores. I wish it was not true. For some of the reasons it is true see my post.

      http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/04/my-personal-account-of-the-decline-of-a-south-birmingham-council-estate-and-the-implications-for-the-average-cognitive-ability-of-its-children/

      In order to raise attainment it is necessary to raise underlying cognitive ability (make kids cleverer). This can be done by applying the mainstream learning theories of Piaget, Vygotsky and other developmentalists.

      Marketisation makes kids dimmer, especially those in greatest need. This is how.

      1. Schools become like businesses run under a ‘management ethic’ by people that know nothing about how children learn, rather than by headteachers that lead professional teams of other teachers by example and through collegiate management that respects teachers’ professionalism.
      2. Marketisation means competition for the brightest pupils. Competition is driven by crude performance indicators that drive league tables. Privatised exam boards compete to provide the results schools need while dumbing down the curriculum and the exam system.
      3. The result is the replacement of developmental approaches to teaching and learning by behaviourism. This results in ever rising exam results and ever lower levels of understanding.
      4. The kids that need developmental, intelligence raising teaching most, are the ones that don’t get it because they are most likely to be in schools that need improvement. The greater the need for improvement, the more behaviourism rules and the dimmer the kids get.

      There is obviously more to it than that. It fills a book.

      You think we need the following.

      “The real answers to improving the lot of the disadvantaged lie in major policy initiatives to do with enterprise, encouraging the private sector, welfare reform, and targeted immigration controls. Much of these are constrained by EU membership which also needs addressing.”

      It is utter twaddle. The first part makes the education system worse. In my headship school, the brightest ethnic group were Kosovar refugees. EU membership is a benefit to education for all sorts of reasons outside the scope of this post.

      • Ed Banks says:

        If you believe that developmentalists can make ‘kids’ cleverer, then you have failed to carry much learned opinion with you:

        ‘Educators might hope that this or other similar bodies of research would yield the ‘holy grail’: identification of the input, or set of inputs, that above all else leads to better
        educational results wherever it is applied.

        Alas, if this report makes nothing else clear, it is that no such magic bullets exist’

        ‘In seeking those solutions, officials also need a dose of humility, remembering that formal education can do only so much.’

        EIU Report on Education: ‘The Learning Curve’

        Regarding my remarks on major policy initiatives to do with enterprise, encouraging the private sector, welfare reform, and targeted immigration controls, I think you have misunderstood my point.

        None of these have anything to do with education reform policies per se but rather affect the parents, peers, the community, and the technological orientation of the culture, in other words, the other forces that influence adolescents’ thinking, wherein formal schooling is but one element as Vygotsky himself points out.

        No, what is twaddle is tinkering around the edges of educational theory in order to look busy earning generous government stipends while the most disadvantaged in society would be better helped by macro economic and social measures designed to remove the culture of state dependency by lifting them and their peers out of poverty.

        Mr Cook of the FT and the Economist Intelligence Unit are spot on.

        ‘we need to talk more about parenting, society and culture.’

        “a lot of these things [determinants of academic success] are not amenable to government action. They are really within families and how society operates.”

        All that the Government can do is to depoliticise/deunionise education in this country so that the interests of pupils/parents/taxpayers are put before anything else.

        That is, in effect, what they are engaged in.

        This is, of course, unpalatable to the minority of organised militant trades unionists within education who give vent to their spleen here and elsewhere.

        ‘When asked what NUT members and others can do to support the People’s Assembly, Kenny is not short on ideas.

        “We need to situate our strike action within the broader community campaign to defend our public services.”

        With regard to the EU, to many of us erstwhile supporters, it appears beached, like a whale, by the ebbing tide of history.

        Refloating it may, I think, prove difficult.

        • Roger Titcombe says:

          Ed – I suggest you read, ‘Learning Intelligence’ by Shayer and Adey (edited). There are indeed no magic bullets, however developmentalism, which has been mainstream learning theory for four decades at least, not only has a lot of research evidence supporting it, but teachers that work with it, especially Shayer and Adey’s Cognitive Acceleration approach, tend to become enthusiasts. At least, that is my experience. However, there is no master plan. Philip Adey was a chemistry teacher, who was profoundly engaged with the problem of why some children find understanding some things (eg the mole concept) so difficult, compared to others. All that developmentalists (eg Piaget and Vygotsky) say is that children’s levels of personal problem solving software grow in sophistication as they grow older, but also crucially depending on how that software is exercised and challenged. School is a good place for this to take place. My Kahneman post explores this.

          http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/05/more-on-common-sense-thinking-fast-and-slow/

          If the fate of your school and your job depends on getting 40 percent of your mainly not very bright students getting C grades in GCSE English and maths, and the most cost effective ways of doing this are to abandon developmental teaching in favour of behaviourist cramming, selective teaching of topics, attending courses at which examiners give handy hints (for money of course – entrepreneurialism in action) and loads of rote learning, then sod developmentalism; gimme the results.

          Shayer and Adey showed that increases in attainment as a result of developmental teaching apply to other subjects, not just the subject area (eg science) used as the context for the approach.

          As for not carrying ‘learned opinion’ with me you are just wrong. Cognitive Ability deniers (eg many on the left) blame ‘discrimination and disadvantage’ exclusively for educational failure, while the political right resorts to genetic determinism (if you are born dim, then there is nothing you, or society can do about it and trying is a waste of money).

          A government whose belief system is in the ‘disadvantage and discrimination’ paradigm will throw money at the problem to little educational effect (although considerable social benefits may accrue – eg Surestart). A government that believes in genetic determinism will favour various approaches designed to ensure that the dim do not get in the way of the bright. Really barmy neo-liberals think all you have to do is privatise everything and let the market work its purgative miracles.

          So no apologies for believing that effective (frequently counter-intuitive) educational approaches can enhance general cognitive development, which underpins all sound educational achievement, and without which all you get is escalating exam results, which the foolish may use to justify various methods of owning and regulating schools that make no reference to how children develop their understanding.

        • Roger Titcombe says:

          Ed – So a poor unemployed single mother’s child will have her educational and life chances improved by cutting her mother’s benefit so forcing her to work as many hours she can get in a minimum wage job that pays so little she still needs to receive state benefits – Eh? The only party that benefits is the employer that gets a cheap labour subsidy. Taxpayers don’t and the poor child certainly doesn’t.

    • Tubby Isaacs says:

      may very well be wrong. I often am. But, in this case, I have reserved my position until a conclusion on Academies can eventually be reached after another 8 years or so.
      That is why I am so puzzled by the amount of hostility to the Academies program

      I think you answer your own question there. If the jury should be out, then why has the DfE and Secretary of State already decided that academies are the way to go? Why has there been no experiment with giving LEA schools the same freedoms from the curriculum?

      The hostility also comes from the lies Gove and all have told since day one- about LEA schools being “run by bureaucrats” etc. Some academy chains are much closer to that. Laws and Wilshaw have argued for LEAs to have oversight of academies- which makes a nonsense of the whole programme.

  13. As well as roaming round the world, we now seem to have drifted further from Henry’s analysis by bringing in the EU, the welfare state, immigration, “state dependendency”, parenting, the unions…

    To recap: Henry’s analysis debunked a central plank of government policy ie that academy status is essential for “improvement”. No amount of bleating about change taking time is going to negate Henry’s argument. That’s because non-academies have also improved their results.

    Now, improved results might not be a reliable indicator of improvement as Roger eloquently explains. But this Government and the previous one judge schools by these ever-increasing targets. According to both of them academies are the answer.

    But when schools improve their results they do so using a variety of methods which have nothing to do with academy status (evidence: London Challenge, City Challenge, Ofsted, PwC…).

    What will be the next red herring? The X-Factor? Tiger mothers? Tax avoidance? Lack of public transport in rural areas? The decline in fish stocks? Climate change? All generously served with anecdotes; generalised, sweeping statements; unreferenced citations; strawmen and logical fallacies.

    • Ed Banks says:

      We live in a democracy. Parents, voters, are not satisfied with the standard of much state education in this country. They are backed up by research from highly respected international organisations:

      ‘Despite significantly increased resources, education performance in England measured by PISA scores remains static and uneven, and could be improved by focusing resources more on disadvantaged children.’

      http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/oecd-economic-surveys-united-kingdom-2011_eco_surveys-gbr-2011-en

      The same report shows that LAs typically only passed on to schools 75% of the funding they received for disadvantaged pupils.

      Consequently the UK government had to reform a clearly failing state education system.

      Academies were set up by the previous Labour administration to deal with this problem and the longest established of those have done a good job.

      The Academies Commission, The Sutton Trust, The London School of Economics and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee all agree that it is too early to pass judgement on the bulk of the Academies program due to its recent dramatic expansion.

      Set against all of this, your grandiose claims for the contributor above’s mild assertion that ‘students in academies are less likely to take history or geography GCSE’ are nothing more than, as usual on this website, an exercise in hyperbole for the worst of reasons.

      The NUT and ‘the People’s Assembly…..the Left-wing equivalent of the bar from Star Wars. Every oddball, nutjob and bounty hunter in the galaxy…beating a path to its door.’ is a match made in heaven or perhaps, I should say, in Corellia, somewhere near Planet Zog.

      • Brian says:

        You’re correct to refer to PISA, after all it is Mr. Gove’s preferred study. I wonder why he, and you, rarely if ever mention TIMMs, PIRLS and PEARSON. Neverthelss a robust analysis of availble data is always worthwhile, so I’d be grateful if you could direct me to the research which shows that ‘parents, voters are not satisfied with the standard of much state education in this country’.

  14. A Cooper says:

    Ed Banks, as you say you have no experience of the Swedish free school system and cannot comment on it. I can only assume your disillusionment with education in England is limited to the experience your children have had in one region of the country. The evidence I have posted is factual (not a short amusing account of a story) based on the experience of family members currently, across two contrasting regions and in four different free schools.

    Rebecca, the family moved to Sweden to experience a better quality of life and a better education for the children. As they have a business in the UK, which provides an income neither parent has worked full time since moving to Sweden six years ago. In fact, they have devoted themselves to their children’s education which is probably why they have been able to view the free school system from a different perspective to Swedish parents. Thus far it has not compared favourably with the system they left behind in the UK, which has expedited their decision to return.

    Poor funding seems to be an issue in each school the children have attended, as I touched on in an earlier post. For example, the technology available to schools is limited – in neither primary school did the children have regular access to laptops or PCs to further their ICT skills (crucial in the 21st century). Indeed, neither school had installed electronic whiteboards in the classrooms, which are now a staple here in state schools.

    Since Kunskapsskolan and IES have already taken over the management of schools here, which are free to choose their own curriculum and how they spend their funding: I can see no reason why these two companies would not impose their philosophies for education on the schools they have founded. Mr Gove has not ruled out allowing ‘for profit’ organisations to set up free schools here, and it would appear that Kunskapsskolan and IES are poised to take advantage of this, come 2015.

    Sponsored reports are bound to extrapolate data that shows that standards are rising where free schools are in operation in Sweden.

    The reality, at a grassroots level, is very different.

    • Ed Banks says:

      I thought you might be interested in this.

      Kunskapsskolan took over what is now Ipswich Academy

      ‘The Department for Education (DoE) has revealed that Ipswich Academy is one of seven academies who were sent a pre-warning letter due to their poor performance.

      But Nancy Robinson, principal of the Lindbergh Road academy, said that “pleasing progress” has already been made since the letter arrived in November.

      The DfE said there had been discussions with academy sponsors and that if the seven schools failed to make substantial improvements it could “ultimately lead to a change in sponsor”.

      The decision to send a pre-warning letter to the struggling academies came after their performance was shown to “remain stubbornly low”.

      A spokesman for the department said the schools had “largely responded extremely well to the challenge”.’

      The head said: “It is important to note that this is a pre-warning letter; the DFE have been working closely with us and are happy with the progress they have seen, following monitoring visits. We were particularly praised for improved behaviour and attendance.

      “We are working very hard to rectify standards, even though we accept our Summer results were disappointing.

      “Existing data for students across the school are showing pleasing progress and we have pledged to improve standards and students’ aspirations after many years of low results and expectations.’

      At least in this country, Kunskapsskolan schools are monitored and remedial action taken if they underperform.

      There is, and never will be, any similarity between UK and Swedish state educational systems.

      • Tubby Isaacs says:

        “At least in this country, Kunskapsskolan schools are monitored and remedial action taken if they underperform.”

        It was said to be in the worst 7 schools in the country- it couldn’t very well be ignored. The DfE seem to have given it a lot of help. Don’t see any heads have rolled at the sponsor.

        Had it been been considered merely bad instead of awful, nothing would have happened.

        There’s nothing that can be forced on them.

    • Thanks for this A Cooper. I wish the family well on their return to the UK. I’m sure the children will have learned a great deal from having had the opportunity to live in Sweden.

      Funding is absolutely crucial to quality and we should never forget this.

  15. It appears that reminding posters the subject of this thread is Henry’s analysis of school performance data is perceived as a threat to free speech. The writer then quotes the OECD which, oddly, ignores its own warning not to compare the UK’s 2009 PISA resuls with those of 2000 because the latter were flawed.

    However, the OECD was correct to say that the change in UK score between 2006 and 2009 was “static” (ie the change in scores was statistically insignificant) and that the scores were “uneven” in the sense that the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged pupils is shamefully one of the widest in the developed world.

    This was what academy conversion is supposed to address – but it isn’t as Henry has revealed.

    The Sutton Trust recently advised against leaping to conclusions based on league tables. It also wanted the focus to move away from school structure to tackling England’s socially-segregated education system:

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/02/dont-leap-to-conclusions-based-on-league-tables-and-dont-focus-so-much-on-structures-says-sutton-trust-address-englands-socially-segregated-education-system-instead/

    • Ed Banks says:

      My challenge to LSN – Campaign for fair access to a decent education for all parents:

      You want a decent education reform agenda to campaign for. Here it is:

      “The most successful schools in England come in three guises.

      There are world-class independent schools for the small minority of 7% who can afford their fees.

      There are still 164 selective grammar schools in some parts of the country.

      And there are a group of comprehensives with non-selective admissions policies, but which are socially selective because of the neighbourhoods or faith communities they serve.

      “The bottom line is, how good a school you go to depends on your parents’ income.

      We have one of the most socially segregated school systems in the developed world, an outlier with only 4 out of 29 advanced countries having a worse record, according to the OECD last year.

      “That is why the Sutton Trust believes that schools, particularly in urban areas, should use a system of ballots – where a proportion of places is allocated randomly – or banding across the range of abilities to achieve a genuinely balanced intake.

      Lower income students do better when there is a mix of students of all backgrounds in a school.

      At the same time, independent day schools should be opened up by a state funded system of open access, and grammar schools by a combination of outreach and fairer admissions.”

      http://www.suttontrust.com/research/top-500/

      Or are you happy out there on Corellia, just round the corner from Planet Zog?

      • Which of your three categories does a school like Quintin Kynaston fit into Ed?
        You can see a video of the head talking about her secondary school and how it achieves excellence here:
        http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2012/is-education-the-answer-to-social-mobility
        She’s the second speaker.

        I assume your comments are about secondary rather than primary education?

        • Oh dear,

          I suppose that if you haven’t.
          1. seen time and again how excellent heads come under systematic attack by those with interests
          2. seen how those heads step aside rather than fight a battle they can’t win which brings their school into the line of fire and
          3. seen the reality of how Gove’s machine works
          4. heard and understood Jo Shuter
          then this might not look like another good head being removed:
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22760507

          For having referred to this school in public on forums I sincerely apologise. I’m sure most readers here will understand that I will revert to describing schools which operate well rather than specifically naming them.

      • Roger Titcombe says:

        Ed – You have fallen for the admittedly generally accepted fallacy that a school’s quality can be validly judged by its exam results. Study Henry’s and Melissa’s new threads. Given reasonably but not perfectly balanced intakes, if all schools were equally (very) effective then there would still be differences in aggregated exam results that could be expressed as a league table. The positions of schools in this irrelevant hierarchy would be directly related to the precise intake cohort ability profile. It is only if this were not the case that any given school could be judged better or worse than another.

        Yes, this does mean that the whole basis of the English education system is utter rubbish, even though at face value it seems to be ‘common sense’ that a school with better exam results must be a better school than one whose results are poorer.

        This is perhaps the greatest educational common sense fallacy of all.

      • Tubby Isaacs says:

        “Or are you happy out there on Corellia, just round the corner from Planet Zog?”

        Instead of this sort of thing, can you answer my questions?

        What can the DfE actually do about Ipswich Academy?

  16. Barry Wise says:

    Does anyone know whether the OECD statement that we have the most socially segregated system would hold good if independent schools were taken out of the equation?

  17. […] out about wasteful public expenditure and unaccountable personal extravagance in academies, as does mounting evidence that no one “type” of school has a monopoly on […]

  18. […] ‘believes’ his policies are working and no amount of evidence that Free Schools and academies have little positive benefit will stop Michael Gove imposing them on our […]

  19. […] ‘believes’ his policies are working and no amount of evidence that Free Schools and academies have little positive benefit will stop Michael Gove imposing them on our […]

  20. Dani north says:

    If anyone wants to help or support the campaign against these schools becoming an academy please add yourself or pass on to anyone who may be interested,thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/281342565372315/

  21. […] Henry Stewart’s research on ‘The Academies Illusion’ for the Local Schools Network […]

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