Again, non-academies do as well as academies

Henry Stewart's picture
Yesterday the DfE made its annual release of school-by-school performance data. As I predicted earlier this week, the press release again claimed that “Sponsored academies continue to improve faster than local authority schools”, by 2.3% to 1.8%.

But, like in 2011 and 2012, any difference disappears if you compare similar schools. The chart below groups the increases for the two types of schools, grouped by their 2012 results. As is clear, those with previously low results tend to see a big increase, while those with previously strong results – on average – see a fall in results.

Change in GCSE benchmark results, 2012-2013
2012 bandSp AcademiesNon academies
20% to 40%9.5%8.8%
40% to 60%1.0%2.6%
60% to 80%-0.5%-0.5%
80% to 100%-3.5%-1.9%

(Note: The category 0 to 20% is omitted as it contained only 3 schools. None were academies, and their results grew on average by a whopping 23%.)

So academies did slightly better in the 20% to 40% category. Non academies improved more in the 40% to 60% category and fell less in the 80% plus one. The figures were even in the 60% to 80% category. And this is before taking account of the fact that for academies 14.7% of the benchmark results are, on average, down to GCSE equivalents – compared to just 7.3% for non-academies.

Congratulations to all improving schools

There was one surprising element of the DfE press release. To his credit, Gove did praise the “professionalism and hard work of teachers”, whose efforts were responsible for the improvement in school performance. This is a welcome change from the message we often hear from government and one statement that I can heartily agree with.

What is clear from the data is that there is again widespread improvement in schools previously labelled as under-performing. As in previous years this had little to do with school structure, despite the huge effort and expense this government has put into the academy programme. Whether schools became academies or whether they stayed with local authorities we see a considerable capability to increase the results of their pupils. A huge congratulations, and big thank you for all the hard work and determination of the teachers.

Most improved schools in England

Six schools saw their results increase by more than 30% and these are listed below. A huge well done to all involved. Note that only two of the six are academies.

Dyke HouseHartlepool38%
Rushden Community CollegeRushden34%
Sir John Talbot's geWhitchurch32%
North Shore AcademyStockton-on-Tees31%
Ormiston Ilkeston AcademyIlkeston31%
St Thomas the Apostle CollegeLondon31%
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Natacha Kennedy's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 10:07

I wonder how many millions more has been spent on academies by this government to generate such underwhelming performance.

Kevin Gill's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 13:40

Henry - in next year's data most of the 'equivalents' won't count in the headline figures will they? Is it possible to work out what this year's figures would be using next year's criteria?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 17:06

Henry, have you seen the results for E-Act secondary academies?

3 of them are below the 40% benchmark 5+ GCSEs A*-C (or equivalents) including Maths and English. Strip out equivalents, and 8 of the 11 E-Act academies are below the benchmark. Purston E-Act drops from 50% to 22%.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/01/2014 - 17:18

Kevin - one way to do this is to choose a local authority from the School Performance page.

Say you choose Bristol. Click on secondary schools. Click on "KS4 exam results" in the tabs above the list. This shows the proportion for each school achieving 5+ GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English with and without equivalents. From the list you can see that Oasis Academy Brightstowe, for example, drops from 60% to 37% when equivalents are stripped out.

Kevin Gill's picture
Sat, 25/01/2014 - 12:15

Thanks Janet, but that takes out ALL equivalents - that isn't what will happen to the figures next year is it?

Henry Stewart's picture
Sat, 25/01/2014 - 18:41

Kevin, you are right. Some equivalents will still count, but only for one GCSE (rather than 2 or 4 as at present). However it isn't possible to work out, from the data published, what the exact effect will be.

However the DfE did two years ago do an analysis of this, for every school, and the results were very similar to those simply without any equivalent. (Sorry, I can't find it on the DfE web site.)

Henry Stewart's picture
Sat, 25/01/2014 - 22:42

This is a very good point, Janet, and E-Act is not alone. Oasis, Ormiston and AET - even if you take only those schools which are well established - have benchmarks without equivalents between 30% and 35%. Thanks for alerting me. I will prepare a post on it.

Yorkshire-Teacher's picture
Mon, 27/01/2014 - 17:53

These academies (and Gove) must be aware of this. Surely they must have a strategy to deal with it otherwise they will look absurd when next year's figures come out?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 28/01/2014 - 08:54

Henry - the table showing GCSEs and equivalents taken in academies which was published in 2011 is available from the House of Commons Library Deposited Papers. The ref is DEP2011-1453 and it was deposited on 6 September 2011. This link should, I hope, lead you to where you can download the table:

… the GCSE equivalents, like Btecs, that the Department for Education is so dismissive of. Previous analysis has shown that Gove’s claims of greater improvement in GCSE results for sponsored academies fall …

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