DfE gets its facts wrong (again) on academies

Henry Stewart's picture
This week the Birmingham Mail reported on remarkable inaccuracies in Department for Education claims. Early this year the DfE had claimed 41 "struggling" primaries had improved markedly in their KS2 SATs results since converting to academy status. However Birmingham's Education Cabinet member, Councillor Brigid Jones, was a bit surprised by the list:

Of the 41 schools, 4 were still with the local authority
1 converted only last month
15 converted after Feb 13, and so their results would have little to do with being academies
1 is an infant school, and so doesn't do SATs
Of the remaining 22, 11 are still below floor level and 4 saw their results fall

The DfE would only have had to check its own data on primary performance, released last December, to see it had once again got its facts wrong.

12.2% growth in previously under-performing Birmingham primaries

In fact the data shows that those primaries who stayed with Birmingham Education Authority did rather well. Of the 30 maintained primaries with the lowest 2012 figures, their SATs results grew in 2013 by an average 12.2%.  (These 30 are those with SATs results, the % achieving level 4 in English and Maths, below 60% in 2012.) For comparison, the DfE claimed in the original Mail article that the average growth in academies nationwide was 3%. It seems that Birmingham Council, and these schools, should be congratulated on their remarkable work on primary school improvement.

The Department for Education justified its data by suggesting that, although they had not yet become academies, the improvement was due to their decision to become one: “This was a list of schools that have or are going to turn into academies so they get the help they need to improve,” Apparently simply making the decision to become an academy has a magical effect!?

The DfE went on to state “we believe the best way to turn around a school is to bring in a sponsor”. This is a highly dubious claim. Analysis of the data for secondary schools that have been with academy chains (who are the main sponsors) for more than 5 years revealed disturbing under-performance. Four of the seven biggest chains had average GCSE results, after removing the effects of equivalents, that were below the government's floor targets.


Note: My thanks to my mum for alerting me to this one! Please do send in any similar stories you see in the local press.
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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 11/02/2014 - 09:58

Thanks, Henry, for alerting us to yet another dubious DfE claim.

In July 2012, Birmingham announced a strategy of school cooperation, not fragmentation, and stated its opposition to enforcement.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 11/02/2014 - 10:34

Henry, one of the schools listed, Lozells Junior and Infant School, was judged "Good" by Ofsted in 2011. The governors voted in May 2012 to become an academy with Holte School, a community secondary school, as sponsor.

Ofsted judged Holte as Outstanding in September 2012. Inspectors noted Holte led a federation of schools including Lozells and Holte's head was involved with improving other schools. All this - and Holte isn't an academy although the governors voted in May 2012 to become one.

That's over 18 months ago. It's unclear why Holte hasn't converted. Lozells is proposed to become an academy on 1 June 2014.



Rosie Fergusson's picture
Tue, 11/02/2014 - 17:49

heres a potential story for you ...

Nick Gibb has just asked the following in the h of C..
"To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will bring forward legislative proposals to permit the Independent Schools Inspectorate to undertake inspections of state-funded academies which are sponsored by schools or foundations within the independent sector. ["

David LAws replied
"There are no plans to make any legislative changes to Ofsted inspection. Inspection of all publicly funded schools, including academies and free schools, is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector."

To what " legislative proposals " could Mr Gibb be referring to ???

Would this be a goofd thing given that several financially non-viable private schools that previously passed ISI inspections have then failed OFSTED inspections after conversion to the state sector ( e.g Batley Grammer which was run by an ISI inspector)

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/02/2014 - 11:06

Rosie - have you got a link to this? I've looked in Hansard and can't find it. I'm probably looking at the wrong date. IGNORE this - I've just got it. Thanks.

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