Pupils in sponsored academies are less likely to achieve traditional GCSEs

Henry Stewart's picture
Michael Gove has made clear his desire to increase the study of traditional GCSEs like History, Geography and languages. He likes to suggest that sponsored academies, taking over from “underperforming” schools, give pupils more opportunity to take these subjects – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In fact analysis of the data, for the 2012 GCSE results, reveals the reverse is true. Pupils in sponsored academies are less likely to achieve GCSEs in traditional subjects than those in maintained schools. This remains true when those academies are compared with schools that are similar, in terms of previous levels of results or levels of disadvantage. Instead pupils in sponsored academies are more likely to take 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 down when compared to similar schools. It is clear that, in terms of his agenda of taking more traditional subjects, it is far better for schools to stay with the local authority.

More pupils achieve a Geography or History GCSE in non academies

Students in sponsored academies are far less likely to achieve a history or geography GCSE. This is true overall and also when compared to a similar cohort of the previously lower achieving schools, or comparing only schools with high proportions of disadvantaged students.

The first column compares all sponsored academies (blue) to all maintained schools (red). The second compares only those schools that received 20%-40% GCSEs in 2012 (the main "under-performing band", as only one or two were below 20%). The third column compares sponsored academies and non-academies in schools where 40% or more of students are eligible for free school meals.

It is not the case that students in lower achieving schools, that become academies, are being transformed by new opportunities to take core academic subjects. Students in these academies are significantly less likely to take a humanity subject.

More pupils achieve a language GCSE in non academies

The same is true for languages. Students are less likely to take a language GCSE if they are in a sponsored academy – both overall, and when compared to similar schools.

The figures here are only for sponsored academies. Converter academies, which were previously mainly Good or Outstanding maintained schools, do continue to have the higher level of humanity and language achievement that they had before. This indicates that the above comparisons have a natural bias towards sponsored academies. They are not being compared to all other schools but only to the subset that didn’t convert – which will have a far lower proportion of Good and Outstanding schools than the average.

Sponsored academies far more likely to achieve their results through equivalents

The reason that students in sponsored academies are achieving less humanity and language GCSEs may be because of the greater use of GCSE equivalents (like Btecs). This is regarded by the Department for Education as a means to “artificially inflate” GCSE results and most such qualifications will no longer count as equivalents (or will count for one GCSE instead of two or four) in the 2014 results. As Michael Gove put it, “even though these qualifications held children back they were taught by adults because they counted in league tables”. But this is much more likely to happen in his favourite sponsored academies. While the GCSE benchmark figure for non academies in 2013 falls by 7.1% if equivalents are removed, that for sponsored academies falls by 14.7%.

It could be that this fall is greater because equivalents are used more in schools with lower results, which includes a greater proportion of sponsored academies. However comparing schools with similar low 2012 results (those in the band 20% to 40%), shows a similar contrast. Results in these sponsored academies fell by 17.1% once equivalents are removed, compared to 10.3% for non academies.

Previous analysis has shown that, when compared to similar schools, any extra increase for sponsored academies disappears. However once equivalents are stripped out in the 2014 results it seems likely that the increase for sponsored academies will be no longer be at the same level as similar non academies but will be significantly less.

Conclusion: The wrong focus for education policy

The natural conclusion is that the structure of a school – whether academy, free school or maintained – is far less important than this government believes. It has made the creation of academies and free schools the main focus of its resources, yet on Gove’s own key criteria – of a return to traditional subjects, especially for the poorest – students are far better off if their school stayed within the maintained sector.

While changing schools to become academies may fit the Secretary of State’s ideology, and his obsession with defeating the “blob” (which he sees local authorities as a part of), there is no evidence of better outcomes for the students affected.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 22/02/2014 - 14:16

Thanks, Henry. It appears there's a concerted campaign between the DfE and the DT to hype up sponsored academies. Yesterday the DT carried an article by a sponsored academy head saying how he'd had to fight "hostile teachers" in order to turn a school from special measure to outstanding. No mention of the fact the school was placed in special measures in 2010 during his watch. The previous Ofsted (2006) found the school was Satisfactory and a monitoring report (2008) found the school was making good progress to improve teaching quality and the proportion of good or better teaching had increased "considerably".

The DT's education editor used this article to run a "hostile teachers standing in the way of education reform" article. This also omitted to say the school had become inadequate when the praised head was leading it.

The DfE then tweeted (http://twitpic.com/dw8hwp) a link to the DT article.



Guest's picture
Sat, 22/02/2014 - 18:37


Thank you for highlighting Gove's desire to reverse the dumbing down and use of equivalents which was encouraged under the last Labour government. I am sure you are aware that the statistic you use refer to students who began their gcse and equivalents courses under the last government, in fact Ed Balls was responsible for education at the time.
I am sure you agree that there has been a large increase in the number of students taking a foreign language, separate sciences, geography and history since Gove became SoS.
Perhaps you could use your knowledge of statistics to show us all the decrease in the use of useless equivalents since Gove rightly condemned their use.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Sat, 22/02/2014 - 22:24

Guest - undoubtedly the last Labour Government was a disaster for education. It started all the ball rolling on all the garbage that Gove continues to push. But your defence of Gove is akin to supporting Mussoulini on the grounds that 'he made the trains run on time'. The ideological dismantling of state education system in favour of a mish-mash of stand-alone organisations that function according to the whims of private companies or individuals is unforgivable recklessness. Henry's post is pointing out that academies and free schools are failing even against Gove's own criteria. He cannot both support 'traditional GCSE's AND support Academies and Free Schools as the vehicle - it is an obvious contradiction. I have myself fought (and lost) the battle against the introduction of BTec to replace GCSE science for most students in my school; they do nothing to enhance the prospects of children. But BTec's have been brought in at my school BECAUSE of Gove's leaghue tables and floor targets and other policies, not despite him.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 07:59

Guest - you might not be the same Guest who made this point some weeks ago. If you are, then please could you save the following so you don't need to make it again.

First, foreign languages. Yes, the decline in number of pupils taking GCSE languages was down to Labour's foolish policy of making foreign languages optional in Key Stage 4.

Second, the trend towards separate sciences began under Labour.


History and Geography: as Henry's analysis shows, pupils in sponsored academies are LESS likely to take these subjects at GCSE despite an increase in uptake (History GCSE entries rose by 18% andGeography by15%).

At the same time there has been a sharp fall in the number taking arts and Design/Technology GCSEs attributed to Gove's EBacc:


Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 09:31

Guest and Frustrated teacher - You are both right. The rot set in under new Labour. Michael Gove was right to seek to put and end it to it, but the job is only half done, for the reasons set out by Frustrated Teacher. League tables and floor targets are still forcing schools with low average ability intakes to degrade the curriculum or face Ofsted failure - ironically resulting in forced academisation, which was the very source of the problem in the first place.

This is all set out in my pre-Gove paper.

Titcombe R, How Academies Threaten the Comprehensive Curriculum, Forum, Vol 50, No 1, 2008

You can find it here.


It sets out what was a bleak future scenario for our education system under Blair's New Labour and his supporters and cronies.

Guest's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 09:59

Exactly. It has taken Gove to come in and sort out the mess and dumbing down. Henry's analysis above, all of which occurred under Labour, demonstrates the need to make radical improvement in our curriculum. It is therefore rather ironic that Henry attempts to blame Gove for the use of equivalents in academies when it is clear to all that this was caused by Labour and in particular Ed Balls.
Henry seems desperate to attack academies and Gove for everything and anything, unfortunately this opposition to all change is bonkers and is not helpful. The majority of our secondary schools are academies and free schools, and this sites constant attacks on our local schools are not helpful.

Brian's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 10:48

Why do you keep repeating some elements of the posts above while ignoring others? As far as I can see the points being made are clear that the 'equivalents' problem began under Labour. However Henry's point is clearly made ... Gove's reforms are actually making the problem worse. You seem to be unable to comprehend that bit.

Your are correct that a majority of our secondary schools are now academies and free schools. Recent evidence would suggest that the description of them as 'our local schools' is increasingly much more doubtful.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 11:19

Exactly right Brian. Gove is not sorting out the mess, he is making it worse because for him marketisation, competition and league tables are required as an act of faith based doctrine, regardless of evidence.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 11:46

Guest - the pupils who took GCSEs in 2013 would have begun their courses in September 2011. It is league table pressure, started under Labour and made worse under Gove, which prompts schools to enter pupils for equivalent exams. Henry has already shown sponsored academies make more use of these equivalent exams.

You seem unable to differentiate between attacking a system (eg academization, selective education) and attacking individual schools. You're right that over half of secondary schools are now academies. And they will have my support if they are (a) not manipulating their admission to deter pupils likely to bring down exam results, or (b) not diverting taxpayers' money into the pockets of trustees or companies linked to them (or their relatives) or (c) crowing about exam results when their intake is skewed towards the top end or when their results are heavily inflated by using equivalents.

All my local secondaries are now academies - I wish them all well. One is a grammar school and is excellent - not because it's a grammar but because it provides a good education, it's a pity it doesn't extend that good education to all abilities.

Guest's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 15:34

How have Gove's reforms made the problem of using equivalents worse ? Henry's research above is flawed and only highlights the issue with Labour. In this case Gove has undoubtedly improved the education of thousands of pupils who will no longer be encouraged to take meaningless qualifications but will instead be encouraged by their schools to take enabling GCSEs.

League tables are also being improved by Gove. It unlikely they will ever be removed as parents like them, however the best 8 is a great improvement.
Janet below talks about selection. This increased under Labour when they had the opportunity to get rid of it. Look at the number of local authority schools selecting for various aptitudes, eg music, in order to select pupils - a ploy used at Fiona Millers school BUT condemed if an academy does the same.

Almost every post on this site is an attack on academies or free schools, and yet this is where the majority of our pupils are educated. Additionally no political party has an agenda to revert academies back into LA schools . As posters point out the structure of the school is not important, however you would not think it from reading the unnecessary attacks on our local academies etc.

It is fairly obvious that the majority of posters are Labour supporters who oppose all of Gove's reforms even when they are an improvement. Labour had 13 years to improve education and failed.
Only Roger appears to rise above the constant agenda of this site, however I doubt many of the changes he hopes for would be practical.

Brian's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 15:45

Guest 3.34 (no reply button)

'Henry's research is flawed ... ' : pointless comment unless you illustrate how it is flawed.

'League tables are being improved by Gove ..': pointless comment unless you explain how.

'It is unlikely they will ever be removed as parents like them ...': : pointless comment unless you provide the evidence for parent views

'Look at the number of local authority schools selecting for aptitude ... ' : pointless comment unless you provide data to support the statement.

Good post. Well done.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 16:31

Guest - Marketisation creates winners and losers in terms of the ability of schools to recruit the able pupils needed for league table success, resulting in ever greater inequality and polarisation of provision. This will be ever more the case now that the vocational equivalent scam is soon to be no more.

Consider two schools, A and B. School A has an intake ability with a mean CATs score of 90 (25th percentile). School B has a mean intake CATs score of 100 (50th percentile). It could be Mossbourne Academy. Further consider that both schools have equally good teachers, head, curriculum and facilities.

School A could previously just meet the floor target by means of a combination of equivalents and a combination of cramming, early entry and teaching to the test in English and maths. This was the New Labour model. It was educationally disastrous.

The majority of less able pupil found that their 14 or more GCSE C equivalents were completely worthless. They still couldn't understand maths and employers and FE were not interested in their useless vocational qualifications. The minority of more able pupils in the school could have succeeded with academic subjects but none could be provided by the school with good teachers because of the degradation of the curriculum through vocationalisation. They could have got A grades in GCSE English and maths if taught properly but instead they were drilled in the parts of the curriculum needed for a C and obtained this in Y9 or Y10, freeing them to take even more useless vocational equivalents in Y11, with no possibility of progressing to Academic A Levels. Its pupils will have been denied developmental teaching and curriculum that would have resulted in them leaving school cleverer and wiser.

What will Gove do for such a school? Not only will it not achieve the new GCSE floor targets, it positively should not. In any proper exam system most pupils SHOULD only get E/D. The only hope will be to extend the gaming that scraped enough Cs in English and maths to the rest of the new academic curriculum. GCSE subjects in all subjects will start in Y7. The poor kids will be become alienated and rebellious, so copping for the zero tolerance tariff of punishments, or they will become sullen, unhappy and queuing at the doctors for happy pills or worse. The low morale will spread to the teachers and Ofsted failure will be inevitable, so the school will be handed to an Academy chain for the same wretched process to start again under an new system where the executive principal is paid twice as much, the schools costs the taxpayer twice as much per pupil to run and the uniform is twice as expensive.

If by dint of PR bullshit and spin the new academy attracts some brighter pupils, the less able will become even more marginalised and do even worse than before.

School B however will do fine.

So New Labour market based reforms are disastrous and Gove's version equally so for different reasons.

So what is the solution? A proper uncontroversial, low key, expert-informed, non marketised , non-competitive, uniform system of state comprehensive schools on the Finnish or similar model.

We have now had 25 years of the market model created by the 1988 Baker Education Act. Are our pupils better educated? Are they mentally more balanced and confident? Are our teachers happier? Has our system of schooling become more stable, settled and politically uncontroversial? Have unit per pupil costs become less?

All we get is the mantra that the failings show that marketisation and competition have not gone far enough so we need more, wilder and dafter versions like Free Schools.

Think medicine when the only therapy was blood letting. If the patient did not appear to be recovering then more blood clearly needs to be taken.

It is completely barmy.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 20:08

Guest - there is no doubt that the best 8 measure is an improvement on 5A-CincEM as the headline measure and that the end of equivalents is a good thing. I support both. But you're wrong on everything else. My school brought in BTec to replace GCSE science in Sept 2013. That has nothing to do with Labour. It is because of the league table system AND (THIS BIT IS IN CAPITALS SO YOU DON'T MISS IT) THAT POLICY WAS BROUGHT IN BY THE ACADEMY THAT HAS TAKEN OVER THE SCHOOL.
The point that you're choosing not to see is that the policy privatisation is undermining the other things that may be useful and that Gove says he believes in. For example - Gove apparently believes in a national curriculum - he's had it re-written so he must do and yet his policy is that Academies and Free Schools don't have to follow it!! The Academy/ Free School programme is not about standards - it is about handing over another huge national asset to corporations that can make money out of it. That has it's own logic - costs must be cut so teachers pay and conditions are under threat. Once reason that Academies use equivalents do much is that they can be taught more easily by non-specialist teachers - it's cheaper that way.

I agree that most contributors on here are probably pro-Labour. More fool them, but it doesn't invalidate what they say. Everyone has an ideology (whether they recognise it or not) but you are blinded by yours.

Guest's picture
Sun, 23/02/2014 - 23:01

Frustrated teacher - I understand your pain wrt BTEc replacing science. My anecdotal evidence is the opposite with academies and schools moving away from equivalents and returning to GCSEs for all students. This is reflected in the huge increase in the numbers now taking separate sciences, foreign languages etc at GCSE. This will be reflected in this years GCSEs results - I look forward to Henry's analysis.. It will however also result in a reduction in the numbers "passing" exams.
I do not buy the privitisation argument as running schools for profit is not possible with current budgets, funding etc. additionally it would not be tolerated by the electorate.
NB your point on equivilants being cheaper to teach would be valid if Gove had not condemned their use.

@Brian - Henry's research is flawed because Gove was not in post when the students began their courses. Can you back up your claim that Gove's reforms have made the problem of equivalents worse? Or was it a pointless comment. Strange the call for evidence is all one way on this site.

Frustrated Teacher's picture
Tue, 25/02/2014 - 20:33

Guest - Academy sponsors may be be non-profit organisations (good for their tax status anyway) but I'm sure you are aware that many of them are organsiations which legally stand alone but in reality are wholly owned and controlled by for-profit organisations which make money from schools by supplying services such as admin, HR, consultancy, etc. That's how the money is made. Other examples include the former private school in the north east that became an academy and in the process the government wrote off the £5 million debt of the former private school which now leases the land for the school to the academy (paid by the public purse) at extremely favourable rates (to the private school) and at the end of the lease the land (and building) return to the hands of the private company!!! The electorate don't kow about this stuff otherwise they would not tolerate it. But the DfE and their friends in the media largely keep this all very quiet.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 09:28

I think Guest is right when he/she points out that Gove was not in office when the students made their options for these results and has taken strong measures - scrapping many worthless equivalents and introducing the ebacc performance measure - to discourage equivalents.

Gove's reforms should also stop the bad practice of concentrating effort and resources almost exclusively on the D/C grade borderline.

I have not been keeping 100% up to speed with the new accountability criteria - do we know whether the floor targets in the medium term will still be based around 5 A-C M+E, or will they be progress/added-value based? If they are P8 related, that should mean that Gove's reforms will actually avoid the bad things Roger fears, doesn't it?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:12

Guest - You are completely missing the point. Nobody is attacking Academies per se.

Henry is just evidencing and pointing out that the line spun by the last and current governments, that Academies on average provide better educational opportunities than LA schools is completely false. The much peddled PWC-based weasel words included in almost very sentence uttered by the last government that, "Academies were improving twice as fast as LA schools", was a reflection of the fact that Academies were in reality degrading their curriculum through vocational 'equivalents' twice as fast as LA schools. They were therefore actually reducing educational opportunities for their pupils twice as fast as LA schools (however LA schools soon got the message and started following suit). PWC could not be expected to pick this up. Certainly no-one from the government nor the Conservative opposition pointed this out to them although I believe that one time Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts, who is allegedly extremely cognitively gifted, was actually onto it. Could this be part of the reason that he was replaced?

This incredibly effective New Labour propaganda has succeeded in taking in the entire media, including those that really should know better like the Guardian, New Statesman, BBC and Channel 4 News - no Dispatches or Panorama exposés (we still live in hope).

Gove has a state-education-dismantling and privatisation agenda for which further Academisation is the essential vehicle; therefore the myth of superior opportunities provided by marketisation, Academies and now Free Schools needs to be maintained. Far from debunking the New Labour lies Gove has learned from them, taking lessons from Tony Blair, and has produced his own version of the 'Academies improving faster myth' in order to serve his ideological agenda

Henry is forensically and very effectively exposing these claims as the deceit that they are.

In questioning the claimed record of Academies' superiority over LA schools, Henry and others on this site are not attacking any schools and certainly not their teachers.

Henry is doing the very necessary job of showing that Academies in general are, if anything, underperforming LA schools, and by a large margin if judged by the commercial criterion of 'pupil progress per pound of taxpayers' money spent' that you might expect a free marketer like Gove to favour.

It should not be necessary for Henry or any other contributor to this site to do this job.

The normal expectation would be for HM Opposition to be beavering away researching and exposing the lies, misrepresentation, propaganda and gross waste and misuse use of public money that the Academies and Free Schools programme represents.

However we got nothing from Twigg and are getting very little that is sensible yet from Hunt, while astonishingly the arch-Academisation collaborator and denigrator of LEAs and their comprehensive schools, David Blunkett, has apparently been commissioned by the Labour Opposition to review its education policies!

Please Ed Miliband, wake up before it is too late.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:18

Barry and Guest - pupils who took GCSEs in summer 2013 would have started their course in September 2011. They would have made their option choices during the Spring/Summer terms 2011.

Gove became SoS in May 2010.

He announced the introduction of EBacc at the end of 2010.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:21

Roger - you will probably already be aware of this because I've made this point before. But Guest may have missed it. Deception about academies has been going on since they were first established under Labour as I explained here:


Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:48


"I have not been keeping 100% up to speed with the new accountability criteria – do we know whether the floor targets in the medium term will still be based around 5 A-C M+E, or will they be progress/added-value based? If they are P8 related, that should mean that Gove’s reforms will actually avoid the bad things Roger fears, doesn’t it? "

No it doesn't, because league tables will still be driven by GCSE C grade performance and pupil progress will still be base-line-referenced to KS2 SATs scores, which are the product of high stakes, league table driven pupil progress measures, susceptible to the perverse outcomes of various forms of gaming, cheating and other results-at-all-costs methods that do not result in deep, developmental learning.

The introduction of the league table requirement for C grades in English and maths has seriously degraded teaching and learning in those subjects through early entry and teaching to the test. See



(Janet - please clear this post from the two-links hurdle.)

This has damaged A Level take up in these vital core subjects.

The most likely outcome on the basis of what is so far known is that the new system will export the perverse incentives that have damaged English and maths to infect the whole GCSE subject curriculum.

The solution is two-fold.

1. Base pupil progress outcomes on progress from KS2 to KS4 without the distorting effect of making the GCSE C grade any more special than any other grade, particularly grades G - D (or whatever their replacements turn out to be).

2. Stop using KS2 SATs as the pupil progress base line. Better still stop using them at all. The idea of measuring pupil progress in terms of low, middle and high ability bands is a good one because it encourages schools to deploy resources equitably across the full pupil ability range. Instead of SATs all pupils in all schools should take CATs in Y6, as they do in Hackney. Then the low, middle and high ability base lines can be percentile based from the CATs scores: low, 93 and below; middle, 94 - 106, high, 107 and above. SATs should be replaced with formative tests for specific purposes (not including league tables).

Guest does not believe that my proposals 'would be practical'. All I can say is that they are not in the least bit radical or extreme - they are similar in principle to the approaches of other countries with high performing education systems.

It is the English education system that is the strange international outlier with its marketised and competitive system.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:50

Guest - your "anecdotal" evidence is not borne out by the figures as Henry has demonstrated. But you can check. Have a look at school performance data.

For example, below are the results for East Midlands sorted with lowest result (without equivalent) first. Ignore the independent schools. The first 10 lowest results comprise 2 Foundation schools (one has now converted) and 8 sponsored academies. Results at Ormiston Ilkeston (sponsored by Ormiston), for example, drop from 55% to 18% when equivalents are removed.

Henry has done the number crunching - he's found sponsored academies are more likely to use equivalents and less likely to enter pupils for Gove's preferred EBacc subjects.

Labour academies were also more likely than all other schools to use equivalents. Gove's "reforms" haven't stopped sponsored academies whether set up under Labour or since Gove came into power from using them. Gove has actually praised academies for their results when these have been inflated with the equivalent exams he says are worthless.


Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 13:04

True. Nevertheless, it would be hardly likely that a school would or even could adjust its own curriculum quite so quickly in response to the ebacc announcement. In any case the EBacc was certainly not enforced, more like a big hint. What would .... and did.... really make a difference was the actual scrapping of hundreds of equivalents in line with the Wolf recommendations, which I don't think was actually announced until 2012.

The point really is, whatever anyone may think of Gove in other respects, he certainly isn't ignoring the 'gaming' racket.

Guest's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 14:07

Janet - look again at Henry's flawed research - it is mainly based on 2012 GCSE results. Now do you follow ? Barry Wise is equally correct that it will only be results from now on that reflect the move away from equivalents. This was a problem caused by Labour and is being tackled by Gove.

Further the dreaded "gaming" of exam results will be partly resolved by the best 8 reforms in league tables.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 14:23

Guest - The problem caused by Labour was the creation of Academies in the first place and the lying propaganda that they were performing better than LEA/LA schools.

Gove is not 'tackling' either of these problems.

Guest's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 14:47

My anecdotal evidence is totally backed up.
Here we go 35% of students entered ebacc subjects in 2013 compared with only 23% in 2012. This equates to 72000 more pupils in one year! Wow !
Do you want some more........almost 48% of state school pupils took a language in 2013, the highest for 7 years. I wonder why?
Proportion of pupils taking history or geography was 60% an increase of 10% on 2012.

This site is so obsessed with academies they cannot see and/or acknowledge the great improvements which are happening. Note this is happening in all schools regardless of type.
Anecdotally I expect the above numbers to increase again this year.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 14:56

Guest - No one is saying that this isn't a good thing, but it has got nothing to do with whether or not Academies are performing better than LA schools. Gove says they are. They are not. That is what Henry's post is about.

Guest's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 15:17

Roger , two thirds of all secondary schools are now either open as academies or in the pipeline to become academies. Let that sink in a second and then wonder what the point of Henry's post was - in fact it's irrelevant now. The obsession with the LSN on attacking academies and free schools is a waste of time.
What is more important is what is actually being taught, and encouraged to be learnt in all schools. Less useless equivalents, more academic and challenging subjects for all pupils, less focus on C/D boundary, more extra curriculum opportunities..... For ALL schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 15:32

Guest and Barry - (1.04 no reply button). Of course schools have adjusted their Key Stage 4 curriculum in light of EBacc because they're going to be judged on it. The Education Select Committee several submissions of evidence re EBacc inquiry suggested the retrospective introduction was a politically rather than educationally driven move, as it would, in the words of the Catholic Education Service, “allow the Government to show significant ‘improvement’ in future years”.

And that's what's happening to much crowing it would seem. But this is balanced by a fall in the numbers taking art subjects and D&T.


Henry's point is the figures show that sponsored academies are less likely to enter pupils for Gove's EBacc subjects.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 15:58

Guest - we seem to be getting confused with talking about equivalents and the rise in EBacc subjects. I understood your "anecdotal" evidence to refer to a decline in the use of equivalents which, as Henry has pointed out before, are likely to be used more heavily in sponsored academies. My comment referred to equivalent exams.

You now say your "anecdotal" evidence referred to the rise in EBacc (which is actually borne out by school performance tables so why call it "anecdotal"?). It's clear more pupils are doing them - they would, wouldn't they, if schools are judged on them? And neither Henry nor I have said pupils studying these subjects is a bad thing although it's a pity arts subjects and D&T are correspondingly declining.

But that's not the issue here as Roger succinctly pointed out at 2.56.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 16:21

Guest - If you haven't noticed, many of the posters on this site are profoundly opposed to Gove's Academisation and privatisation programme regardless of how many Academies there are now.

In my view, and that of many others, the model is unsustainable in terms of costs, regulation, performance, probity and public accountability. It has been noted on other threads that the abolition of 'equivalents' will cause great problems in meeting floor targets for the schools that have relied on them most. A very high proportion of such schools will be Academies because they have relied on equivalents to a greater degree than LA schools, as Henry is pointing out here.

A possible scenario therefore is Academies changing from 'improving at twice the rate of LA schools' to 'Academies failing Ofsted at twice the rate of LA schools'.

That will cause serious problems for Gove's ideological war in which he wants private provision to defeat public provision.

If you have been following the LSN threads you will note the growing disagreements between the Chief Inspector (MW) and the Secretary of State (MG). MW has stated that he intends Academies to be inspected 'without fear or favour' on the same basis as LA schools. This appears to be a change from the regime under his predecessors.

Hence the pressure from MG's supporters for MW's Ofsted to be barred from inspecting Academies and Free Schools because as Independent schools they should be inspected under the Fee Paying school's inspection systems, which give the impression of being less challenging. MW also appears to be falling out with MG about the extent to which Ofsted should approve the particular approaches to teaching and learning favoured by MG and disapprove of those that MG doesn't like.

Early into his new job MW was quick to suggest that large scale Academisation was indeed unsustainable and that a layer of local management (previously provided by LEAs) was needed. This apparently did not go down well with MG.

Don't forget that MW's former school, Mossbourne Academy, is a 'Community School' that is happy for the LA to manage its admissions on common LA-wide basis. It seems to me that Mossbourne Academy has far more in common in terms of ethos, teaching and learning methods and inclusivity with its LA school neighbours than it does with a great many poorly performing sponsored Academies now in the inspection queue.

I approve of MG's curriculum changes promoting academic education for all including the less able.

However, I have grave doubts as to the ability of schools using Gove's favoured teaching methods being able to succeed this objective.

The first wave of sponsored Academies, which claimed to have the advantages of the vigour of 'business methods' liberated from 'suffocating control of LAs' and with Marxist teacher unions given the boot, clearly couldn't achieve this or else why did they have to resort en mass to equivalents?

Thanks to Henry (and some others of us) there is some clarity about what is happening.

Guest's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 16:33

Janet - could you please provide the evidence that the use of equivilants is increasing, and has increased since Gove denounced their use. Obviously, as I've pointed out ad nausea, this would not include Henry's figures above for 2012 as their courses started under Labour. You have failed to do this from the tables you provided. If you are certain you are right please show us all simply. How about no detailed links to data tables but a couple of simple lines - number of equivilants sat by students from 2007 to now?
Anecdotally I am aware of all schools moving away from equivilants, factually there has been and continues to be a move to more academic and challenging GCSEs as these equivilants are phased out.
I look forward to your evidence.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 16:39

Janet Downs at 3.32pm (no reply button)

Henry’s point is the figures show that sponsored academies are less likely to enter pupils for Gove’s EBacc subjects.

No - the figures show sponsored academies WERE less likely to, not 'are'.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 17:00


It has been noted on other threads that the abolition of ‘equivalents’ will cause great problems in meeting floor targets for the schools that have relied on them most.

Why? Floor targets are going to be based on a progress/VA measure .... so schools will not be penalized for their intake any more. Isn't this a good thing?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 17:12

Barry - This remains to be seen. What will be the league table driving parameter? It won't be progress/VA will it? When will the new system be in place? Will it be before the first 'equivalent - free' GCSE results are published?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 17:41

Barry - point taken. In 2013, pupils in sponsored academies were less likely to have taken Gove's preferred EBacc subjects. This is despite Gove having put them on a pedestal as improving faster than other schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 17:42

Roger and Barry - my concern is that the media will ignore the progress/VA measure and still list schools in order of GCSE results.

Brian's picture
Mon, 24/02/2014 - 19:49

Any idea what it will be VA from, as end of KS1 and KS2 'Levels' are going?

Genuine question ... schools keeping asking me and I haven't seen anything about it yet.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 25/02/2014 - 09:43

Guest - (no reply button). I have never claimed the use of equivalent exams has increased so there is no need to look forward to my evidence proving something I haven't said. What I have said is that according to Henry's evidence shown elsewhere sponsored academies were more likely to have entered pupils for equivalent exams.

However, since you want to go back in time, PriceWaterhouse Cooper's report into academies in 2008 found some Academies had used vocational courses to boost improvement more quickly. This was at the expense of ensuring a “broad and balanced curriculum” in some cases (see faq above).

In 2011, sponsored academies were making use of equivalents some quite heavily. See House of Commons paper downloadable here:


agov's picture
Tue, 25/02/2014 - 10:12


Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 25/02/2014 - 11:47

It is not just barmy it is dysfunctional. The evidence is mounting. See today's BBC News.


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