Why Academies don't raise standards
Local Schools Network has recently featured a number of articles by Henry Stewart that cast serious doubts on Department for Education claims that Academies perform better than Local Authority maintained schools. His articles here, here, here and here are his latest. The DfE have failed to refute the evidence or conclusions demonstrated by Henry's data and are increasingly reduced to crude, evidence-free attacks. Are there credible educational explanations for the relatively poor performance of Academies? I have just finished reading, 'The Truth about our Schools: Exposing the Myths, Exploring the Evidence' by Melissa Benn and Janet Downs. This is a brilliant, must read, expose of the fallacies encouraged and peddled by the DfE and uncritically reproduced by the mainstream media. Myth No 5 is, 'Academies Raise Standards'. The evidence has been clear that they don't, even before Henry's latest revelations that post-date the publication of the book. Other chapters point to explanations rooted in mainstream educational research. Myth No 6 is, 'Teachers don't need qualifications' In the English education system teacher training and education is increasingly being taken away from universities in favour of 'theory-light' school-based on-the-job training. In the rest of the world, and especially in countries with the highest performing education systems, the trend is in the opposite direction - for teacher education to be university-based, longer, more rigorous, more academic and more theoretical, while maintaining the obviously necessary supervised classroom-based training that has always existed. It is Academies that are leading the opposite process in England. It is still worse because not only are Academy teachers less likely to be effectively educated, trained and qualified, Academies and Free Schools in England are allowed to employ as teachers, people with no teacher training at all - not even the theory-light versions backed and encouraged by the DfE. It is actually worse still, because Academies are more likely than LA schools to be controlled by 'Executives' with various fancy titles and correspondingly sky high salaries and bonuses, who do no teaching themselves and are increasingly unlikely to possess any academic qualifications in the theory of education. It is like putting the design teams of shipyards under the control of people that do not understand the Principle of Archimedes. Myth No 8 is, 'Progressive Education lowers standards' Melissa and Janet root out the ideological origins of this myth and evaluate the evidence. Amongst much else they point to the work of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation who have evaluated 30 different types of school intervention and quantitatively rated the effectiveness of each in terms of learning outcomes. You can find their conclusions here. Many of the most effective often attract the label 'progressive' and these are less likely to be found in Academies. They are explained and discussed in detail in Part 5 of my book, 'Learning Matters' and include the following: Feedback and meta-cognition strategies Peer tutoring Collaborative Learning See here and here. The following have been shown to have no effect at all, or to actually inhibit effective learning. They are rare in the world's most effective systems but are all commonly adopted in Academies. Strict school uniforms Performance Related Pay for teachers Strict Setting and Streaming See here and here. So there we have it. Henry's research reveals Academy under-performance. Melissa Benn, Janet Downs and I provide in our books some educational mechanisms that explain it.