Academies. What Mr Gove does not want you to know.

Ian Taylor's picture
“Evidence shows that the academy programme has had a good effect on school standards.” Michael Gove, 16 June 2011

Channel 4 Factcheck has been testing this claim. What did Factcheck find?
It is well worth reading the whole Factcheck article. It seems balanced, and includes the pieces of the evidence that Michael Gove has chosen to leave out of his speeches. And it includes conclusions that respected groups have presented, which again Michael Gove has chosen to ignore.

From the evidence so far from Secondary Academies, Factcheck concludes:
“Mr Gove’s decision to extend the academy system to cover primary schools looks increasingly like a gamble rather than a piece of evidence-based policy.”

So is Michael Gove being economical with the truth in his quote about the evidence?
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Stephen Smith's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 20:47

I was about to post a link to this - many thanks for beating me to it.

I thought the comment at the end of the article was particularly relevant :

"Academies were more likely to be rated outstanding than other state schools – but more than half were rated no better than satisfactory, compared with just 35 per cent of other state schools."

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 16/06/2011 - 22:11

OK there may some problems with free schools and academies in democratic structure and so forth, meanwhile what about what some LAs do not want you to know? See link above.

I am disheartened by the brick wall presented to students and adults in communities without good schools by many LSN contributors. I have said in other posts that I am not against the improvement of local comprehensives ( or whatever school ) by their nearby communites. But there are two conditions: the community has to consent; it must succeed in the opinion of the community.

There is a very important point there in that what is a good school is ultimately something a community had a capricious right to express. I don't care if OFSTED, Gove, NUT and LSN all say a school is excellent, if people don't like it they should have some right to ask for an alternative.

Now we have some places where a huge amount of positive energy in communities has been unleashed by the free schools and academy programs and the only response is outright oppostion here. All you are prepared to do is oppose under all circumstances these schools and offer more of the same, even if that does not work in areas where schools fail, as pointed out frequently by Andy Smithers. I don't care if a comprehensive is the means to a good schooling, that's fine. If it doesn't work though get ready to be stampeded by those who can make it work.

Some of you have said what about the people who want their local LA schools - this is fine let them speak. There doesn't seem to be the same clamour but please prove me wrong.

It seems there is zero reflection.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 08:15

Stephen - I think this is a most important point. Academy status alone doesn't guarantee school success, or indeed that it will restore parental confidence. In London boroughs where the academies have had time to get established over a ten year period. There is a clear hierarchy of academies now, in much the same way as there was with the predecessor maintained schools. I now hear parents saying that there are some academies they would fight to keep their children out of. I think this is a great shame as many are schools trying hard in difficult circumstances which deserve parental support. Unfortunately unless we deal with issues like admissions, selection, variable quality of leadership , teaching and governance, and stop obsessing about types of school, we will continue to see these hierarchies develop in the new landscape.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 08:54

Ben, the Telegraph didn't contain a link to the OECD report which is always annoying. However, it is at the bottom of this post and, as is so often the case, OECD is more measured and thoughtful than the media comment.

The OECD does indeed say that UK disadvantaged students are not as "resilient" as pupils from other countries and, yes, the league table shows that the UK is not doing enough. However, the Telegraph, in its eagerness to support Mr Gove's academy programmes, misses the OECD message.

The OECD looked particularly at Science (a focus of interest in the 2006 PISA results). It defined 'resilient' pupils as disadvantaged pupils who achieved despite being disadvantaged. These were compared with disadvantaged low-achievers. OECD found that resilient students had undertaken more "learning time" than the low achievers. It suggested, therefore, that increasing this learning time "should be considered when designing policies to improve performance among disadvantaged students" which could include making courses compulsory. Resilience can also be fostered by "developing activities, classroom practices and teaching methods that encourage learning and foster motivation and self-confidence". Nothing here about academies and so on.

These results echo those of earlier OECD reports - that the most successful school systems are the most equitable and money should be directed to where it's most needed ie the disadvantaged. And as you know, because I keep repeating it, OECD has warned that the free school and academies programme will need careful monitoring if it is not to impact negatively on already disadvantaged students.

It is a pity that the Telegraph's education editor does not make a more thoughtful and measured analysis of OECD data. Rather, he used it today as an opportunity to show partisanship. If Mr Gove is really concerned about under-performance it would be better if he paid attention to OECD analysis rather than misrepresenting it to push through his ideological agenda.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 09:08

Ben, you say that contributors to this site present a "brick wall" to people in communities without good schools. It is only possible to judge each free school application on a case-by-case basis. To make a generalised comment about free schools only being proposed in "communities without good schools" is disingenuous.

Unfortunately, many free school proposals are hidden between a "brick wall" of secrecy. There is a lack of transparency about their funding. It is difficult to discover how the "demand" for each school was discovered. And business plans seem to appear before locals know much about the schools, or even where they will be situated.

You say that if people don't like a school, even if it is excellent, they should have the right to demand something else. State schools are funded by taxpayers, and taxpayers' money can't be spent on the capricious whims of people who decide they want an alternative to something that is judged excellent. And there is a balance to be struck between the rights of an individual parent, the rights of other parents, the needs of children (and these may sometimes conflict with a parent's desires), and the needs of society as a whole. You seem to be saying that the rights of individual parents trump everything else.

Stephen Smith's picture
Fri, 17/06/2011 - 19:37


The comment also serves as a reminder of how the semantics of Ofsted have moved the goal posts over the years. Time was when "satisfactory" meant "giving satisfaction" - whereas now it tends to mean "bordering on useless". I guess I can't just blame the tories for that one though !

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 07:32

An Ofsted judgement of "satisfactory" has come to mean "unsatisfactory" in propaganda terms because there weren't enough schools judged "inadequate" to justify claims that the UK education system was unfit for purpose.

Satisfactory means "satisfied the criteria". If it no longer means this, then it should be called "unsatisfactory". Until then, I shall take "satisfactory" to mean the former.

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