10 academy myths, and the facts that disprove them

Henry Stewart's picture
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Version 2: Updated 24/10/15 to include provisional 2015 GCSE figures

This article is a summary of many of my articles analysing the performance of sponsored academies. Click here to download a 7 page printable version of this article. Feel free to use and distribute this as you wish. As the Education and Adoption Bill goes to the Lords, these facts indicate how destructive its forced academisation could be.

Myth 1: Local authorities are no good at helping schools improve. That’s why “inadequate” schools must be converted to academies.

The facts: Of the 331 primary schools that were rated “Inadequate” at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only two remained “inadequate” by the time Ofsted called again. On average, this was less than 21 months later.

Of 59 secondary schools that were rated “Inadequate” at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only four (7%) remained “inadequate” by the time Ofsted called again. On average, this was less than 15 months later.

There is no need for the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill. Local authorities are actually remarkably successful at helping “inadequate” maintained schools to improve.

More at: http://bit.ly/SponSlow

 

Myth 2: Sponsored academies are more likely to improve a school that is “inadequate”

This is the basis of the Education and Adoption Bill. Any school rated “inadequate” (or coasting) is to be issued immediately with an academy order. Both the governing body and the local authority will be legally bound to support the conversion.

a) Sponsored academies are almost four times as likely to remain “inadequate” if secondary and twelve times as likely if primary.

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· Of primary schools rated “inadequate”, just 0.6% remained “inadequate” at their next inspection (v 6.8% for sponsored academies)

· Of secondary schools rated “inadequate”, just 7.6% remained “inadequate” at their next inspection (v 27.1% for sponsored academies)

This comparison is between sponsored academies that were “inadequate” at conversion, and have had one Ofsted inspection since, and all maintained schools.

More at: http://bit.ly/spon49000

b) For secondary sponsored academies that have had two Ofsted inspections since conversion, they are over twice as likely to stay “inadequate” and over twice as likely to become “inadequate” if they are currently rated higher

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· A secondary school is over twice as likely to stay “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (6.8% v 17.6%)

· If a secondary school is rated “Requires Improvement”, it is over twice as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a Sponsored Academy (7.7% v 19.6%)

· If a secondary school is rated “Good”, it is four times as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (4.4% v 19.6%)

· If a secondary school is rated “Outstanding”, it is over twice as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (3.3% v 8%)

More at: http://bit.ly/InadSpAcad (Note: primaries not included as too few have had 2 inspections)

 

Myth 3: Forcing “inadequate” schools to become academies is the best route to less children remaining in “inadequate” schools

In fact, due to the facts above, the reverse is true. If we apply the data on the % that remain “inadequate” we can estimate the difference between all “inadequate” schools being in the maintained sector and them all being sponsored academies:

If all “inadequate” schools were of that type, how many children would remain in “inadequate” schools at the next inspection:
PrimarySecondary
Maintained schools50514,432
Sponsored academies6,73657,348
Difference6,23142,916

The effect of sponsored academies and the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill can be estimated: 49,000 extra children will remain in “inadequate” schools.

While the number of primaries that are “inadequate” has stayed constant at 2%, the number of “inadequate” secondaries has gone from 3% to 6%, according to ofsted Data View Or as Ofsted 2014 report put it:

“Children in primary schools have a better chance than ever of attending an effective school. Eighty-two per cent of primary schools are now “good” or “outstanding”, which means that 190,000 more pupils are attending “good” or “outstanding” primary schools than last year. However, the picture is not as positive for secondary schools: only 71% are “good” or “outstanding”, a figure that is no better than last year. Some 170,000 pupils are now in “inadequate” secondary schools compared with 100,000 two years ago.” (Ofsted annual report 2014:http://bit.ly/Ofs2014, p8)

The difference? The vast majority of primary schools are still maintained, while the majority of secondaries are now academies.

More at: http://bit.ly/spon49000

 

Myth 4: Academies are responsible for 1 million more children being in “good” or “outstanding” schools

Nick Gibb: “there are 1,100 sponsored academies that started life as under-performing schools, which is a colossal achievement that has led directly to over 1 million [more] children being taught in “good” or “outstanding” schools.” (11/9/15)

The facts: There are over one million more children in schools rated “good” or “outstanding” but the majority (78%) of these are in primary schools, where there are few academies.

In total there are 50,820 pupils in sponsored academies that are rated “Good” or “Outstanding” (June 2015), representing just 5% of the extra primary pupils that are in such schools. So 95% of the extra students in “Good” or “Outstanding” primaries are not in sponsored academies.

More at: http://bit.ly/NoGibbNo - see notes for details of change in estimate to 1st draft

 

Myth 5: Sponsored secondary academies improve their GCSE results faster than non-academies

Government ministers frequently make claims that sponsored academies increase their GCSE results at a faster rate than other schools. However the comparison is always between sponsored academies and all maintained schools. As schools increase faster when they start from a lower base, and sponsored academies generally start from a lower base, they will always increase their results faster than all other schools.

The key question is whether a specific school will improve its GCSE results faster if it is a sponsored academy or a maintained school.

To find this out, we must compare sponsored academies to similar maintained schools. The graph below groups schools by their 2012 GCSE results and then compares the change in GCSE results over the three years to 2015.

These are split into “quintiles”. This means splitting into five groups, according to their 2012 GCSE benchmark – with the bands chosen to have roughly the same number of sponsored academies in each.

For the schools with the lowest 2012 results (37% or less students getting 5 A-Cs including English and Maths), sponsored academies saw their results grow by 3.6% while maintained schools improved, on average, more than twice as fast at 8.5%.

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LSN’s comparisons of 2011, 2012 and 2013 GCSE data generally showed that sponsored academies improved their results no faster than maintained schools but did not show them performing worse. This changed in 2014 with the removal of most GCSE equivalents from the results, which sponsored academies relied heavily on.

Without those equivalents, it seems that sponsored academy secondaries improve their performance, on average, at a slower rate than similar maintained schools.

More at: http://bit.ly/MaintainBest

 

Myth 6: Sponsored primary academies improve their KS2 results faster than non-academies

The same is true when the performance of sponsored primaries is compared to similar maintained schools. In this case I adopted a new approach (which I will use for secondaries this year) of grouping the schools into five equal sets, or quintiles, according to their 2012 KS2 results. (ie, each of the five sets has the same number of sponsored academies.)

In four of these quintiles the sponsored academies improved their results at a slower rate. Only in the already highest performing set did the sponsored academies perform better.

Note that the same pattern as for secondaries is clear, that the fastest improvement is in the groups of schools that previously had the lowest results. Far more of the maintained schools are in the higher sets and so, if sponsored academies are compared to all schools and not to similar schools, they will appear to improve faster.

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There have only been results for the last two years for most sponsored primary academies. The initial indication is that the smaller increase is a 1st year effect, probably due to the distraction of becoming an academy. Beyond the 1st year, the two types of schools appear to increase at similar rates.

More at: http://bit.ly/SponSlow

 

Myth 7: Academy chains are generally high performing and a route to success

A Department for Education report published in Spring 2015 compared the value added in the largest 20 academy chains with that of 100 local authorities.

· Of the 20 chains, only 3 had a value added that was above the national average of 1000.

· Even the two best performing chains (ARK and Harris) were outperformed by 8 local authorities.

· On the combined list of 120 LAs and academy chains, there are just 3 chains in the top 50 but 15 chains in the bottom 50.

While the government, and their supporters, like to talk of “high performing chains” there are only actually two academy chains that fit that description. The vast majority are producing results that are below average, by the DfE’s own analysis.

More at: http://bit.ly/DismalChains

 

Myth 8: Sponsored academies are particularly successful at helping disadvantaged students

The Sutton Trust report Chains Effects 2015 makes clear that there are serious problems with many of the academy chains: “far from providing a solution to disadvantage, a few chains may be exacerbating it”. - See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/07/are-academy-chains-harming-the-progress-of-disadvantaged-pupils/#sthash.fuBUKWi4.dpuf

The conclusions are stark: While there are some chains demonstrating “impressive outcomes”, “a larger group of low-performing chains are achieving results that are not improving and may be harming the prospects of their disadvantaged students”.

More at: http://bit.ly/AcadHarm

 

Myth 9: Sponsored academies lead to more pupils taking traditional subjects, like languages and humanities.

Students in sponsored academies are far less likely to achieve a history or geography GCSE. The graph below compares all sponsored academies to all maintained schools. But the same is true when comparing “underperforming” sponsored academies to similar maintained schools (both having 2012 GCSE benchmarks between 20% and 40%) or comparing those with the most disadvantaged intakes (only those with 40% or more on free school meals).

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The same is true for languages. Students are less likely to take a language GCSE if they are in a sponsored academy – both overall, and when compared to similar schools.

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It is not the case that students in lower achieving schools, that become academies, are being transformed by new opportunities to take core academic subjects. Students in these academies are significantly less likely to get a C or better in a language or a humanity GCSE.

More at: http://bit.ly/AcadHisGeo (analysis was in 2014 on 2013 GCSE results)

 

Myth 10: Independent research supports government claims for academy performance

You know that somebody is losing the argument when they fall back on the work done by Stephen Machin and colleagues at LSE. The most recent data used by Machin was for 2008, and so the analysis only reflects the performance of the early Labour academies. Machin himself has made clear that it is “hard to justify” the use of his research by the government for its very different academies. Indeed he called it a “step too far”.

In contrast independent bodies have generally disputed any claims of better academy performance:

· The Sutton Trust (above) warned that low performing chains may be harming the performance of disadvantaged students.

· The Conservative-chaired Education Select Committee report on Academies and Free Schools found no evidence of better academy performance. It stated "Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school“ and added that “the Government should stop exaggerating the success of academies". More at http://bit.ly/PriAcad

· NFER in 2014 concluded: "no significant improvement is seen in the rate of improvement of GCSE results for academy schools over and above the rate of improvement in all schools".

 

Conclusion

None of the claims of government ministers for the better performance of sponsored academies stand up to scrutiny. In contrast what the data tends to reveal is that maintained schools are actually performing very well.

There is no basis or justification in the data for the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill.

The key amendment is the one put by Labour at the committee reading, that only academy chains with a successful track record should be allowed to take on new “inadequate” or “coasting” schools. It should be hard to argue that struggling schools should only be taken over by those chains that are successful. But the Bill, because of the large number of schools set to be converted, means that many will be taken over by unsuccessful or overstretched chains.

 

 

Notes

Click through the links for details of the data that the analysis is based on, including where to download it.

Note 1: Local Schools Network has been publishing this analysis since January 2012. While the DfE has sometimes sought to use different interpretations, or data from different periods (often not in the public domain), it has never challenged any of the numerical analysis we have published.

Note 2: All of this data relates to sponsored academies. These were generally previously “underperforming” schools that were converted to academies with a sponsor. Converter academies are schools that were generally “Good” or “Outstanding” and chose to convert to become academies. The focus here is on sponsored academies is because that is the focus of the Education Bill. The key question addressed in this paper is whether a struggling school will improve more if it remains in the maintained sector or of it becomes an academy.

Contact Details

Henry Stewart can be contacted on henry@happy.co.uk, 07870 682442 or @happyhenry

Comments

Michele -Lowe's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 07:11

The devil is in the detail. Thanks for drilling down into the data. Very useful source.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 09:37

Let's hope politicians read this. Not just Lucy Powell, Labour's shadow education secretary, but all those MPs who are likely to vote for the Education and Adoption Bill which is built on the premise that academies, particularly sponsored ones, are the best way to turn round failing schools. That's not true as Henry has shown above.

The Schools White Paper 2010 was built on a lie - that the UK had plummeted down international education league tables since 2000. A possible excuse for this misrepresentation could be that the Paper was published in November 2010 just before the publication of the OECD PISA 2009 results in December. These were accompanied by a warning not to compare the 2009 UK results with those from 2000 because the latter had been found to be flawed. A responsible Governments should, of course, had removed the misleading comparison from the Schools White Paper. But it didn't. And it kept repeating the lie again and again until the UK Stats Watchdog censured the way the DfE had used this data.

The Education and Adoption Bill is also built on a lie. Politicians considering to vote for it should reflect on that.

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