Heard of Sponsored Academies Week? A chance to publish puff pieces about academy sponsorship, it seems.

Janet Downs's picture
Sponsored Academies Week appears to have passed by without much notice – except on Conservative Home.

“Today we return to Derby for another sponsored academy success story. This time it has been delivered by the CfBT Schools Trust and has taken place at the Grampian Primary School in Sinfin.”

Results at Grampian have risen.   100% reached Level 4 in 2013 (unverified).  This was up from 54% two years ago thanks to academy sponsorship, the article said.

But results rose from 54% to 93% before CfBT took over in December 2012.    Ofsted* monitoring in 2011 praised support given to Grampian by the local authority and the School Improvement Partner.  Inspectors wrote “the school has a good capacity for sustained further improvement.”

Grampian was already improving before it became an academy.   But the writer made it appear CfBT’s involvement was responsible for a "remarkable transformation" by overlooking the improvement in results when Grampian was a local authority school.

A second article, written by Gavin Barwell, PPS to Michael Gove, Croydon MP and Councillor, and Governor of Whitfield Foundation, a local charity which runs independent schools and was co-sponsor of Harris South Norwood Academy, praised sponsored academies in Croydon particularly Oasis Academy Shirley Park, formed in 2010 by merging three schools.

Ofsted’s first monitoring inspection in 2011 said the academy benefited from sponsor support in administration and professional development.  But Ofsted* also noted the “valued” assistance from London Challenge, Education London and others.

A full Ofsted* in February 2012, Ofsted* judged Oasis Academy Shirley Park to be “satisfactory”.   

Barwell also praised The Quest Academy where results had risen from 23% reaching the benchmark** at the predecessor school, Selsdon High.  In 2010, there were 634 pupils at Selsdon  – Ofsted* had judged it satisfactory and withdrawn its Notice to Improve.   Its main strength was the “excellent leadership” of the head.  Nevertheless, Croydon Council pressed ahead with plans to change it into an academy:

 “As well as the clear benefits to students via transformation of educational standards, a new Academy will help to restore parental confidence...”

So has academy sponsorship had the desired effects?  Exam results rose to 41% in 2011 but this fell to 22% when equivalent exams were removed.  Results rose again to 46% in 2012.  But the number of pupils in Quest Academy (capacity 1115) has fallen to 460. 

Ofsted* judged The Quest Academy as “requires improvement” (June 2013) although it was “on the way to being good”. 

A third article was an extraordinary piece deriding any opposition to enforced academy conversion as people who “will shout and shake their fists”.   The author highlighted Outwood Grange Academy (Ofsted “Outstanding”).  In 2013, the article said, 100% of the GCSE cohort achieved 5 GCSEs A*-C.   But it wasn’t clear whether this included Maths and English.   In 2011, 82% reached the benchmark** but this fell to 47% when equivalent exams were removed.  In 2012, 87% reached the benchmark**. 

Outwood Academy Adwick was also mentioned.   The academy rose from a “council-run comprehensive” where only "23%" of the GCSE cohort reached the benchmark** in 2005.    But the author ignored the rise in results to 41% when the predecessor school closed in 2009 - only 2% below the local authority average.   Backtracking the results to a poor year makes the rise to 46% in 2010 so much larger.   Results rose again to 51% in 2011.  But this fell to 30% when equivalent exams were removed.   In 2012, 56% reached the benchmark.  Again, this relied heavily on equivalent exams.

Ofsted* judged Outwood Academy Adwick as “satisfactory” in February 2012.

Under the new Ofsted regime, “satisfactory” means “requires improvement”.  The Government applies this retrospectively to schools judged satisfactory at their last inspection.  By the Government’s own reasoning, therefore, pupils at Oasis Academy Shirley Park, Outwood Academy Adwick and The Quest Academy are among the “2 million children [who] are in schools that are not good enough.” ***

Sponsored Academies Week, then, hasn’t quite worked as a marketing ploy for sponsored academies.  And evidence shows sponsored academies do no better than similar non-academy schools.

What will be the next date in the calendar?   Free Schools Fortnight, perhaps?  Converter Academy Month?  One thing’s certain – there’s not likely to be a Community Schools Day given the Government’s hostility to the majority of English state schools.


*Citing Ofsted judgements does not imply agreement

**5 GCSEs A*-C (or equivalent) including Maths and English

*** Schools minister, Elizabeth Truss, House of Commons 12/3/2013.

NOTE: all figures are from School Performance Tables for the relevant years.  All Ofsted reports can be downloaded from Ofsted website.

List showing percentage of academy pupils reaching benchmark excluding equivalents in 2011 can be downloaded here. Comparable statistics for 2012 don’t seem to be available.
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