Professor Stephen Machin, co-author of a London School of Economics (LSE) report on Labour's sponsored academies, has expressed annoyance about the way the findings have been hijacked by the present Government to justify its policy of academy conversion.
Writing in the Guardian
, Professor Machin said, “our evidence on Labour academies has frequently been marshalled in support of the new academies programme, usually (though not always) without offering the caveat that the new academies are rather different.” He explained that Labour’s academies had been established from underperforming secondary schools with the aim of raising achievement among disadvantaged pupils. Converter academies, on the other hand, tended to be better-than-average schools. The Government was also applying the report’s findings, which painted “a reasonably optimistic picture of Labour academies”, to primary schools, but equating primary schools to secondary ones was not comparing like with like. Professor Machin said it was too early to discover whether academy conversion had any effect on educational outcomes.
Professor Machin welcomed the call for rigorous evidence which could be thoughtfully applied. However, he disapproved of the way the Government had used his report. He ended with a warning: “And one thing is clear: researchers, policy-makers and the media need to be clearer and think carefully about how they make practical use of research evidence.”
In other words, meticulous evidence produced by reputable, impartial organisations should not be regarded as data which can be misrepresented to support particular policies. It should be carefully read and properly analysed.
Stephen Machin is professor of economics, University College London and research director at the centre for economic performance, London School of Economics