What did the four pieces of evidence cited by school minister really say about academies?

Janet Downs's picture
Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said there was sound evidence that academies increased attainment and used this to justify academy conversion for primary schools. He listed four reports:

1 London School of Economics 2011 which Channel 4 Factcheck had investigated and found there were weaknesses and the report’s conclusion about the “academy effect” was contradicted by other reports.

2 PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) 2008 report which concluded there was “insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about the Academies as a model for school improvement”.

3 2010 report from the National Audit Office (NAO). The NAO found that “the proportion of academy pupils achieving five or more A*-C GCSEs was improving at a faster rate than in maintained schools with similar intakes”. However, this was countered by the finding that “there were a small number of academies which made little progress, particularly when English and mathematics were considered” and some academies had been judged by Ofsted to be inadequate. The NAO concluded: "Many of the academies established so far are performing impressively in delivering the intended improvements. It cannot be assumed, however, that academies' performance to date is an accurate predictor of how the model will perform when generalised more widely. Existing academies have been primarily about school improvement in deprived areas, while new academies will often be operating in very different educational and social settings." This warning seems to have been missed by Mr Gibb despite being printed in bold. Past performance in academies, which was not uniform in any case, is no predictor of future performance and it is, therefore, unwise to press forward with mass academy conversion particularly with primary schools.

4 Public Accounts Committee 2011 report which concluded that academies had been a resounding success.

Only one of the four pieces of evidence quoted by Mr Gibb unambiguously endorsed academy conversion. However, closer scrutiny shows that the Public Accounts Committee had missed the downside to the academies programme given in the evidence it looked at. It used the Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General HC288 Session 2010-2011 to find out how well academies had done. This document is the National Audit Office report referenced above which makes it clear that not all academies were raising results and even where improvements had been made there had not been a similar improvement in the results of disadvantaged pupils – the very children that academies had been set up to help.

The Government is spending millions on academy conversion and bullying schools that do not comply when the Government decides that they should convert. Yet the evidence used to underpin this policy does not do so. The electorate is being deceived and Mr Gibb is deceiving himself.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Paul Martin's picture
Sun, 21/10/2012 - 18:21

May I also recommend "Academies and achievement: setting the record straight" http://www.changingschools.org.uk/academiesfolder/complete%20report.pdf by Dr Terry Wrigley (Leeds Metropolitan University) and Dr Afroditi Kalambouka (University of Manchester)?

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.