Will Primary Academies improve results?

Jane Eades's picture
The evidence speaks for itself.

It is often forgotten that we have had primary academies, as part of all-through academies, since 2002, giving plenty of time to assess their performance. As with secondary academies, a look at the results gives enough evidence to doubt the effectiveness of the extra money which has been directed towards the academy programme.

Michael Gove has said that he will force the bottom performing 200 primaries to become academies. Coyly the Department for Education has refused to name the schools, possibly because there are at least 2 academies in that list. (The Steiner School, Hereford, appears not to have reported results).

For some reason Mr Gove has included 4 primaries in Haringey in his list of primaries to be forced into academy status and has, at the point of writing, disbanded a governing body which opposed him. Given that we know the names of these schools we can compare some of the all-through academy results with these schools and decide which we feel are really the failing schools.

Priory Witham Academy was established in 2008 and its 2011 KS 2 results put it in the bottom 1% of all schools in the country (and in the bottom 200) with only 11% of its higher level pupils making the expected progress between KS1 and KS2 in English, despite having only 2% EAL students. Within its own local authority it was second from bottom in terms of its KS2 results. In 2011, 29% of pupils achieved level 4+, down from 55% in 2010. This compares with an estimated 40% achieved by the predecessor school.

Another academy which has failed to live up to its predecessor is Oasis Shirley Park. The last recorded results for the primary school it replaced show that 70% of pupils achieved KS2 at Level 4+. This compares with the 39% achieved in 2011 by Oasis Shirley Park, placing it in the bottom 200 on rank ordering and in the bottom 2% of all primaries.

One academy records the same percentage of pupils achieving KS2 Level 4+ results as Downhills, one of the threatened primaries. However, when the results are further analysed it is very clear that St Matthews Academy has a much less challenging intake, with far lower levels of EAL pupils and those on free school meals. At each level, pupils at Downhills make better progress that those at St Matthews.

Swindon Academy recorded the lowest KS2 results in its the local authority, with 52% getting level 4+ in 2011, down from 59% in 2010.

Overall, only 3 of the primary academies achieved better than the national average KS2 results in 2011. One was previously a church school, one a primary attached to a former grammar school and one has only slightly higher results than the predecessor school.

What is very surprising is that a converter academy, Westlands Primary in Kent, had achieved lower results than Nightingale Primary and yet was deemed good enough to opt for academy status!

The independence of Ofsted must also be called into question. All 4 of the Haringey schools have been inspected within the last 5 months and, coincidentally and despite the KS2 results, have been put into special measures, giving Michael Gove justification for his actions. Whereas Priory Witham was last inspected in 2010 and Oasis Shirley Park have only just had a full inspection.
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Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 02/03/2012 - 10:52

Hereford Steiner Academy is exempt from KS2 Sats. A clause in its funding agreement means pupils don't have to sit these external tests. Pupils are, however, subject to teacher assessments and these show 57% of pupils achieved Level 4 or above in English and 48% in Maths in 2011. These results are below the threshold yet there appears to be no move to replace the Academy's governing body. The Steiner Academy is also exempt from teaching reading, writing and ICT in KS1 - presumably the pupils will be exempt from mandatory phonics screening.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 02/03/2012 - 11:09

Ofsted is beginning to lose credibility. In September 2011, Ofsted judged Downhills to be improving thanks to a "core of experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise" and to the effective support provided by Haringey local authority. But In January 2012, Ofsted, in a report which is still not publicly available on its website, decided Downhills was to be placed in special measures. The head, who was in charge of a leadership team judged by Ofsted to be strong, has now resigned. A popular head gone and a career ruined.

No doubt the Government regards such wrecked careers as collateral damage.


Janet Lallysmith's picture
Sun, 04/03/2012 - 16:15

Ofsted lost credibility quite some time ago in Haringey.


Unfortunately, they and the DfE hold all the power.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 06/03/2012 - 10:18

Business Academy, Bexley, (age range 3-18) also has had poor key stage 2 results over the last four years:

2011 58%
2010 60%
2009 43%
2008 38%

Ofsted 2009 reported that the "very low achievement at the end of KS2 had not improved during the period of 2007 and 2009". However, Ofsted monitoring 2012 found that KS2 attainment was rising and was positive about the school.

Nevertheless, judged by the Government's crude benchmark, which is used as a sledge hammer on schools such as Downhills and Nightingale, Wood Green, Business Academy is under-performing. Compare Bexley Academy with Downhills:

2011 63%
2010 NA
2009 40%
2008 53%

In three out of four years where results are available, Business Academy's KS2 results were lower than Downhills'.

And again, with Nightingale School, Wood Green, where the Governing Body was dismissed in an e-mail to the head teacher at the end of February 2012 and replaced by a Government imposed interim body:

2011: 62%
2010: NA
2009: 76%
2008: 65%

Ofsted damned Nightingale in October 2011 and the Governors were given a few weeks over Christmas to find a sponsor or have one forced upon the school. But judged on raw results alone, Nightingale is doing better than Business Academy. So why is the DfE singling out certain schools and not others?

The Ofsted report condemning Downhills is still not available on Ofsted's website.





Jane Eades's picture
Sun, 11/03/2012 - 10:11

The spreadsheet for the all through academies KS2 results, compared with the 4 Haringey schools can be seen at:

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 12/03/2012 - 16:55

Jane - are the figures for Folkestone in the spreadsheet correct? I think the GCSE results may have been confused with the KS2 results. The KS2 results are 2011 65%, 2010 77%, 2009 n/a 2008 n/a


Jane Eades's picture
Mon, 12/03/2012 - 17:44

Thanks, Janet, for pointing this out. You are right that somehow the KS4 results got put in instead of the KS2 results. I am replacing the spreadsheet.

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