The primary school data released today showed a remarkable improvement in results. The % achieving Level 4 in both Maths and English rose by 5.2% on average in community schools, though just 3.7% in those primaries which were academies. A big congratulations to the hard working students, teachers and other staff in primaries across the country.
The DfE noted that only 476 primary schools were now below the "floor targets", compared to 1,310 last year. This transformation had nothing to do with the academies policy that the DfE's promotes as its primary only policy for school improvement. The schools that had low results in 2011 showed the largest increases. The figures for community primary schools
* 21 schools on < 20% in 2011: Average 8% pts increase
* 54 schools on 20-30%: Average 30% pts increase
* 157 schools on 30-40%: Average 27% pts increase
* 451 schools on 40-50%: Average 23% pts increase
* 1,212 schools on 50-60%: Average 17% pts increase
did almost as well, achieving -5%, +23%, +27%, +12%, +17% in these categories. However, according to this data, those figures come from very very few academies - just 1 or 2 in the first 4 categories and just 14 in the 50-60% category. So of the schools under the 60% floor target in 2011, 20 were Academies and 1,895 were community schools. The massive drop in schools under the floor target has therefore virtually nothing to do with academies.
Analysis of the schools making the greatest progress backs up that message. Less than 1% of these strongly improving primaries were academies:
- 156 primary schools increased their results by at least 40% pts. None of these were academies
- 464 primary schools increased their results by at least 30% pts. Just 3 of these were academies.
- 1,540 primary schools increased their results by at least 20% pts. Just 14 of these were academies
Now the lower overall increase in academies can be explained by the fact that most are already high performing schools. But what is clear from the data is that the big improvement in "underperforming" schools has nothing to do with academies. Academies have no track record in improving such schools. Local authority primaries, on the other hand, have a very successful record in this.
An evidence-based Department for Education would step away from its obsession with academies and look at what caused this big turn round and seek to replicate it further.
These results are dependent on the accuracy of the DfE data. The DfE press release states that there are 970 primary academies. However the data table only categorises 412 as Academies. Of these only 270 have results listed for both 2011 and 2012. Also some of the figures seem unlikely. One primary school in Bolton, for instance, is listed as having its results fall from 97% to 0%.