Fullfact Confirms LSN Analysis on Academies

Henry Stewart's picture
Over the last two months there has been a lively discussion between Local Schools Network and the Department for Education over the performance of academies. Our analysis of the DfE's own data found that schools across the country showed remarkable improvements, especially those with previous low results. And non-academies performed at least as well as similar academies.

The DfE acknowledged the accuracy of our figures but claimed the comparisons were unfair. Government spokespeople continue to claim that academies grew twice as fast as non-academies. The independent fact-checking organisation FullFact has carried out its own review and found that LSN interpreted "the data as even-handedly as possible."

FullFact confirms that the data "suggests they [academies] are part of a wider upward trend among low-performing schools overall". Our analysis showed that the difference between growth of academies and non-academies disappeared when you compared similar schools. FullFact describe how we compared schools (here and here) where less than 35% of students in 2010 achieved 5 A-C GCSEs including English and Maths.

"From this new comparative base, the data tells a different story. The proportion of good GCSEs achieved at "failing" academies rose from 29 per cent in 2010 to 37 per cent in 2011, an eight per cent increase. "Failing" non-academies' results increased from 30 to 38 per cent in the same period, a proportionally identical improvement. This suggests that over the period, secondary schools were - on average - capable of turning their fortunes around, regardless of whether or not they acquired academy status."

FullFact reviews our analysis, commenting that it "appears not to support the original DfE claim that academies' GCSE results improved by nearly twice the level seen across all state-maintained schools."

This claim has been made by many - including Michael Gove, Nick Gibb, the Department for Education and even Stephen Twigg. We hope that they will take account of this independent review and be more cautious in their claims. Even more, we hope that they will at last praise the remarkable transformation taking place in many schools, whether academies or non-academies, and the dedication and hard work of the staff in those schools.

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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 05/04/2012 - 16:30

Henry, congratulations on being recognised as being "even-handed". I hope the DfE takes this on board and doesn't keep regurgitating pro-academy spin. It's acceptable to praise an academy, indeed any school, which does well, although it should always be remembered that education is more than raw exam results. It's not acceptable, though, thing to praise a particular type of school overall when the results don't merit that praise. And it's equally unacceptable to promote that particular type of school as being a silver bullet to raise standards - it isn't.

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