Don't take our word for it. That is the view of Sir Michael Wilshaw, founding head of Mossbourne Academy and now Chief Inspector of Ofsted. Writing in the Guardian
last week he said:
"Last year alone 85 schools serving the most deprived communities in our society were judged to be providing outstanding education. ... let me be clear: the vast majority of these schools are not academies. They are simply schools with heads and staff focused on the right things, striving every day to provide the best possible education for their young people."
Michael Gove and the government's supporters seem only interested in showcasing school success if it is in an academy. He described those who oppose conversion to academies as "enemies of progress". The impression is left that the non-academies do less well than academies and that schools in deprived communities have a poor record.
Non academies have higher proportion of good and outstanding schools
The contrast with Sir Michael is interesting. Wilshaw appears to be interested in what actually enables children to succeed, rather than a partisan focus on one policy whatever the evidence. As Head of Ofsted he knows the data, and he makes clear that most successful schools have not been academies and also that many schools in deprived areas - and this is a very important message to hear - are delivering outstanding education. Sir Michael may have started with the Ofsted annual report
for 2010-11, which gives the ratings on schools inspected that year:
Academies: 53% Good or Outstanding
All schools: 57% Good or Outstanding
Indeed taking all schools (including those inspected in previous years), 70% were rated Good or Outstanding. This is backed by the data released by the DfE. My previous post
showed that, when you compared academies to non-academies of similar deprivation, academies performed worse. That post looked at academies' relative performance in getting 5 A-Cs including English and Maths (with and without GCSE equivalents) and the % making expected progress in Maths and English, and found they consistently did worse than non-academies. The picture gets even more interesting when you look at performance of the most disadvantaged students.
Where do disadvantaged children do best?
These charts show two remarkable things about which schools children on free school meals (FSM) do best in, both of which support Sir Michaels' statements. First, they consistently make greater progress in both English and Maths in non-academies than in academies.
Second, and this goes against a very wide conventional wisdom, our poorest children do best in schools in disadvantaged areas. (eg, in a comment to a previous post Charlie Ben-Nathan pointed out
this was very much the view of the OECD in their PISA research.) There is a popular image of sink schools in permanent failure in deprived areas. In contrast, as Wilshaw stated, there are many amazing schools in deprived areas, with dedicated staff securing great results for their students. Indeed they achieve better results from the poorest children than schools in more affluent areas.
Of the schools with more than 40% on free school meals, where over 70% of FSM students achieve expected progress in English. 13 are academies and 47 are not. It is tragic that none of these non-academy success stories will be celebrated by the Department for Education. Let's hear it for Bethnal Green Technology College, Mulberry School, St Marylebone, Woodside High, Loxford, Holyhead and Waverley - in all of which over 90% of FSM students made that progress in English.
This same pattern shows in the key criteria of 5 A-Cs including English and Maths:
Once again non-academies outperform academies (in 4 of the 5 categories) and children on free school meals do best in schools in the more deprived areas. I would have liked to plot this data without GCSE equivalents as well, but that data doesn't seem to be included for FSM students. However, as the Telegraph revealed last wee
k, it is academies that are more likely to 'inflate results with easy qualifications'.
The Telegraph accurately noted that the average drop across all schools, when GCSE equivalents were excluded, was 6% but the proportion of students in academies getting 5 GCSEs (including English and Maths) dropped from 50.1% to 38.3%, dropping twice the national average, when equivalents were excluded.
Mr Gove and his supporters are fond of quoting Mossbourne and academies from the Ark group (such as Burlington Danes) as evidence that academies can transform eduction. Sir Michael Wilshaw was, of course, Education Director of Ark group as well as being head of Mossbourne. A conclusion better suited to the data is that Wilshaw has a remarkable effect on those schools he is associated with, but academies as a whole don't perform as well as other state schools.
Schools like Mossbourne are doing genuinely great work and should be celebrated. But, as Sir Michael points out, there are many more outstanding schools to celebrate doing amazing work in our most deprived areas - and most are not (or were not until the last year) academies.
Data postscript: Reference to academies here is to the category of "sponser-led academies". It does not include the separate category of "converter academies", of which there were only 25 in the data. Some of the schools listed have since become academies, but were not at the point they got these results.