The recent Department for Education (DfE) report into the effectiveness of the City Challenge
programme found it was difficult to isolate factors which lead to school improvement. But the Government insist that the only way to improve school results is academy conversion, by force
if necessary. But the Evaluation of the City Challenge Programme
“More radical approaches to school improvement that attempt to change the whole system or implement structural solutions are increasingly used. These include the free schools movement in Sweden; Charter schools in the US; and the academies programme in England. The underlying rationale of these approaches is that introducing new types of schools that are more autonomous, free of local authority or direct government control, will enable greater parental choice. This, it is argued, will inject market competition into the education system, promoting educational innovation, and thus drive up standards/school performance for all pupils, including those attending other schools. Evidence about Swedish free schools and US charter schools is mixed (CREDO, 2009; Allen, 2010; Bunar, 2010; Zimmer et al., 2009). Evaluations of the academies programme in England (e.g. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2008; the National Audit Office, 2010; Machin and Vernoit, 2011) all report improvements in pupil attainment, but have not been able to disentangle the factors have led to the improvement. The more complex the initiative, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle what aspects of it have brought about change.”
The report confirms what Ofsted
found – that academy status isn’t necessary to improve results. And Henry’s research for this site showed that sponsored academies performed worse than similar non-academy schools (see faqs above). But the DfE continues to promote the myth
that academies and free schools are superior to other types of state schools. And a report which shows that another initiative, the City Challenge, was more effective than academy status seems to have been buried.