Half of all sponsored secondary academies were less than Good at their last inspection, according to data at the end of the latest Ofsted Annual Report
This compares with 37% of local authority maintained secondary schools and 15% of converter academies.
It’s the same with primary schools. Nearly half (46%) of sponsored primary academies were less than Good at their last inspection. This compares with 19% of LA maintained primary schools and 11% of primary converter academies.
Converter academies were mainly schools previously judged Good or better. The data appears to show converting to an academy is no guarantee a school will remain so after conversion. Academy conversion was supposed to bring ‘freedoms’ which would allow academies to excel – but they don’t seem to have helped those academies where inspection judgements have fallen after conversion.
Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says it’s now time to move on from obsessing about school structure. However, it’s not clear he has done so himself. He criticises stand-alone academies for their isolation. His report contains a graph which shows how results in sponsored academies have risen over the years. But there’s no corresponding one showing results in similar non-academies rising at the same rate.
And no acknowledgement that the Department for Education (DfE) accepted in the High Court
that academies do no better than non-academies when equivalent exams are stripped out.
Discussing structure remains important when Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), the set up recommended by Sir Michael, can be structured in such a manner that the perception of wrongdoing
is increased. When the largest MAT, AET
, has been censured twice by Ofsted and told to sort out its finances by the Education Funding Agency. When MATs (eg Prospects Academies Trust
) can close leaving academies scrabbling to find another chain.
And the academies programme has been expensive. In just two years, from April 2010 to March 2012, the DfE overspent £1b on this flawed policy.
Despite this overspend, the National Audit Office recently found formal interventions such as academy sponsorship were less effective
in turning round schools than informal methods such as support.
The Government remains committed to academy conversion and pushes sponsorship as the best solution for ‘failing schools’. Just a couple of weeks ago the Chancellor announced £10m to boost academy sponsorship
in the North.
But the evidence shows academy sponsorship is not a magic bullet – it’s expensive and it isn’t as effective as other, cheaper methods. Academy conversion is revealed as a con. The extra freedoms don’t amount to much – non-academies can do most things academies can do. And academies in MATs can find they really are in chains - under more centralised control from the Trust’s head office than they ever were under LA stewardship.