50% of sponsored secondary schools were less than Good at their last inspection. But wasn’t sponsorship supposed to raise standards?

Janet Downs's picture
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.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


kenya smart's picture
Sun, 14/12/2014 - 21:15

Greetings Everyone

My name is Kenya new to the forum.The posts have been very useful in helping decide where we would want out children to acheive. However, the main concerns we have regarding Ofsted reports on 6th form colleges,are that they are more complimentary
to the failings of the "select" providers, contrasting this with more than mercenary approach and scorings "3" to non select well performing 6th form colleges.Taking into consideration,some have delivered more with less resources, and a more, diversely challenging cohort. Take Newham six form college as an example, If one would belive without researching what OfSted have reported here Learning and skills inspection report 15 Sep 2014 Oct 2014 one would not waste time by attending the open day.

Its dissapointing that Ofsted do have any teeth regarding the failings of the 2 select 6th forms and have placated themselves by awarding them high scores which are contradicted in their reports . High turn over of staff, students not acheiivng their A* predicted scores, although there is only1 year accomodated, with more "select" Tutors than students. How can they not acheive at least 80.6% AA passes. After all all the students are the top predicted acheivers in London, are they not. This bias should be challenged.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.