Academies in deprived areas which are successful in “closing the gap” between the performance of their pupils and national averages share common features with good or outstanding non-academies in equally-deprived areas, says the annual Ofsted report*. Ofsted identified the following characteristics:
1 A commitment to both the academic and personal achievement of each pupil.
2 Improved attendance as aspirations rose.
3 Rigorous monitoring which led to improved post-16 progression.
4 Effective use of assessment.
Ofsted listed features which secondary schools wishing to speed up the progress of all pupils should consider. These included:
1 Strong leadership with a clearly-articulated, shared philosophy.
2 Monitoring systems to identify underperformance.
3 High-quality professional development.
4 Staff involvement in planning and taking responsibility for improvements.
5 Tailor-made support for pupils.
6 Attendance and behaviour management strategies consistently followed.
7 Involving parents.
8 A challenging but flexible curriculum.
9 Targeted intervention for younger students in basic skills, especially literacy.
10 High quality teaching.
11 Well-planned induction and transition arrangements.
Academy status is not one of the listed features. And the recommended traits can be developed by all schools not just academies.
The Government keeps insisting that academies work. But they only work when they share features with successful non-academies. PriceWaterhouseCoopers
recognised this in 2008 – when schools improve they use similar methods irrespective of academy status. But the Government refuses to acknowledge this. Instead, it blunders onward promoting its academy conversion programme, by force if necessary.
Mr Gove says he wants his policies underpinned by evidence. But when the evidence contradicts his prejudices he ignores it.