The Data on Academies & Other Schools

Henry Stewart's picture
Peter Wilby's article in the Guardian today quotes our research on GCSE results and academies:

"Exhaustive analysis by the Local Schools Network, a campaigning body, reveals that academies perform no better, and sometimes a little worse, than state schools in comparable circumstances. Look, for example, at schools where fewer than 35% of pupils achieved five GCSEs including English and maths at grades A to C in 2008. Academies recorded an 18.6% improvement in results by summer 2011. Those that stayed with their local authorities, however, managed a 19.1% improvement. English schools – in defiance of sceptics, including me – have, in recent years, narrowed the attainment gap between children from poor homes and those from more affluent backgrounds. Children from poor families are doing better at school. That is certainly cause for celebration. But it has happened in schools of all types; whether or not they are academies makes little difference."

Peter's use of our data is absolutely correct. The figures he quotes are taken from this post:

Established Academies: Still No Evidence of Better Performance

And this article shows the higher growth in results in schools with high levels of poorer families (specifically those on free school meals):

Local Schools: DfE data shows their success

Other relevant posts include:

Sir Michael Wilshaw is right: Most Outstanding schools are not academies

Academies: The evidence of underperformance

Academy chains: No case for expansion

The DfE's own data indicates widespread success across our secondary schools. As Peter pointed out many academies have done well, and should be congratulated. However overall similar non-academies have done as well if not better - and should also be congratulated.  This post includes a roll call of the best schools in the country:

The Mossbourne Fallacy

This finds that one academy, Mossbourne, does features in the list of the very best. But the others are not academies. The area of greatest improvement has been in London, with 85% of schools in the capital now rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. This is generally attributed to the success of the London Challenge, detailed here. Significantly this programme cost just £40 million, far less than the billions that have been spent on the academy programme. This post details how well many London comprehensives now do:

Students with low prior achievement: Inner city London comprehensives do best

These articles were based on the DfE data release in January 2012 and are thus based on 2011 GCSE data. The 2012 data will be released in January 2013 and we plan to carry out similar analysis of that. However the picture we have so far is of schools even in our most disadvantaged areas (indeed especially in our most disadvantaged areas) doing well, whether or not they are academies.
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 08/12/2012 - 18:36

Absolutely right Henry. You are also right to question the huge excess costs of academies and free schools and that of centrally regulating them from the DfE in their thousands. How can this be justified by a government that is cutting public spending by targetting the poorest sections of society? Do we know the true scale of these costs? The Labour opposition needs to get onto this.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 09/12/2012 - 09:10

The DfE overspent by £1 billion on the academies programme. It now publicises its intention to spend £1 billion on providing "funding for new school places in areas experiencing the greatest pressures on places over the next two years. It will allow the expansion of existing good schools and includes enough funding to build up to 100 new Free Schools and Academies."

So, the DfE wastes £1 billion over the last few years and then trumpets how it's going to spend £1 billion in the next two years on much-needed school places. The need for extra school places was known two years ago - the overspent £1 billion would have been better allocated to solving that problem. Instead, the £1 billion was taken from other budgets.

And there'll be no help at all to schools locked in a spiral of decline - the schools whose position in league tables is low, who don't therefore attract enough pupils, who can't then offer the same range of subjects as other schools, who tend to have a greater proporition of pupils discouraged by a variety of means from attending more high-performing schools. They won't get a penny of this "extra" money because they're not "good" schools.

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