Cameron compared academy with predecessor school using results from TEN YEARS before the school actually closed.

Janet Downs's picture
‘I think of St Luke’s in Portsmouth. In 1999, not a single pupil got 5 good GCSEs. Today it’s the Charter Academy – and 79 per cent of pupils have got those grades.’

David Cameron, Kingsmead School, December 2014

The end of the last century seems rather a long way to go back in order to make a comparison. But was it true that no single pupil at St Luke’s got 5 good GCSEs in 1999? The benchmark that year didn’t include Maths and English – school performance tables recorded proportions achieving 5 GCSEs A*-C (any subject). The national average at the time was 47.9%. Results at St Luke’s came nowhere near that with just 8% reaching the 1999 benchmark. Low, very low – yes, but it’s not 0%.

But St Luke’s didn’t close until 2009, ten years later. Its last set of exam results showed 22% achieved 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English. After a rather choppy ride, the predecessor school had raised results from the alleged 0% to 22%. It would be fairer, then, to have 22% as the base mark not 0%.

There’s no doubt results at Charter Academy have risen spectacularly from 22%. The proportion reaching the benchmark was 24% in 2010 rising to 68% (32% when equivalent exams are removed) in 2013 to 83% (65% on GCSEs only measure) in 2014. It’s unclear, then, why it should be necessary to cite results from a date ten years before the predecessor school closed in order to demonstrate how far the Academy has come.

Earlier in the speech, Cameron said:

‘…we have Academies which had no pupils getting five good GCSEs now seeing eight in ten reach that mark.’

Cameron didn’t specify whether the ‘five good GCSEs’ included Maths and English; neither did he give a timescale. But as the academies programme didn’t really take off until the Coalition came to power in 2010 it would be safe, I thought, to assume he was referring to 2009.

I asked the Department for Education for the names of schools, now academies, where no pupils reached the benchmark of 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English in 2009, and where now, as academies, 80% of the pupils had reached that benchmark. The answer was none.
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Brian's picture
Wed, 25/03/2015 - 21:49

I guess you got your reply to the FoI request today, as I did:

'Your request has asked for: “the data, including the names of the academies, where the 5 good GCSE outcome in 2009 was 0% and in 2014 was 80% or better”.

There are no academies that meet the parameters you have specified in your request.'

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/03/2015 - 08:04

Brian - the response to my FoI request was a day late. A cynic might say the DfE wanted to put as many days as possible between the date of the speech and any data which makes Cameron's claims look misleading. By the time the dodgy data is speared, the news has moved on and who cares about a speech Cameron made last year?

I'm pleased someone else interpreted Cameron's claim about academies rising from 0% to 80% meant he was talking about the year before he came to power ie 2009. But as we've discovered, there wasn't even one academy let alone 'academies' (which surely implies more than one).

And it's stretching credulity a bit to compare 2014 results with those from a decade before a predecessor school closed. I notice the same daft comment is on ARK's website and on Charter Academy's site.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/03/2015 - 08:26

ARK chooses a different comparison year for Charter Academy in its Annual Report for the year ending 31 August. It says:

'Charter Academy in Portsmouth reported the greatest improvement in the five GCSEs measure up 18 points to 68% and up 65 percentage points from the 3% the school recorded in the year that discussions about becoming an ARK academy first began'.

The 3% figure was from 2006 - three years before the predecessor school St Luke's closed. So why was 2006 chosen? Is it because it was a particularly bad year for results? Why choose 2006 when it would have been more accurate to choose 2009 when results had risen 19 percentage points to 22%?

ARK admitted in a later table that results at the predecessor school just before ARK took over was '21%'.

The Annual Report 2012/13 is downloadable from Charter Academy school performance table.

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