Contact: Henry Stewart (07870 682442), firstname.lastname@example.org
A new release of data from the DfE, in response to my Freedom of Information request
, provides dramatic evidence that sponsored academies are not the best route to school improvement.
* For secondary schools rated "Inadequate", sponsored academies are almost four times as likely to remain "Inadequate" at their next inspection (27% v 7%)
* For primary schools rated "Inadequate", sponsored academies are over twelve times as likely to remain "Inadequate" (8% v 0.6%)
Nicky Morgan justified the key elements of the Education and Adoption Bill, currently going through parliament, on the basis that no child should remain in an inadequate school for a day longer than is necessary. The DfE's own data indicates that, if forced academisation goes through, then many more children will remain in inadequate schools for longer than if they had remained maintained schools.
The numbers are not huge. The DfE figures indicate that just 66 secondary schools and 48 primary schools, that were converted while "Inadequate", have had an Ofsted inspection since the conversion. Surprisingly 82% of secondaries and 63% of primaries have not, according to this data, been reinspected. However this is the only data that exists on the effect conversion has on the Ofsted rating of underperforming schools. There is no data to support the Secretary of State's argument that becoming a sponsored academy accelerates a school's improvement. There is this evidence to show the opposite.
Local authorities are good at helping "Inadequate" schools improve
The assumption behind the Education & Adoption Bill is that maintained schools languish as Inadequate and that local authorities do not have the capability to help them improve. Analysis of Ofsted ratings shows that the reverse is true:
Of the 331 primary schools that were rated Inadequate at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only two remained Inadequate by the time Ofsted called again. On average, this was less than 18 months later.
It seems that the local authority, or whichever body is responsible for challenge and support, does a remarkably good job of helping schools improve from Inadequate. There are even eight maintained primary schools that have gone from "Inadequate" to "Outstanding" at the next inspection, compared to just one sponsored academy.
This also represents considerable improvement. Just over two years ago the Ofsted report indicated that 3.5% of "Inadequate" primaries retained that status at their next inspection. The proportion is now just 0.6%. Indeed only one local authority in the country did not manage to get all its "Inadequate" primary schools to a higher rating.
Sponsored academies are more likely to stay inadequate and more likely to become inadequate
When a school converts to becoming an academy, its Ofsted rating is removed. Ofsted publishes regular "Management Information" datasets
, giving the last two Ofsted ratings for every inspected school in England. For the 217 sponsored academies that have had two inspections since conversion, this allows comparison to maintained schools starting from a similar point:
A secondary school rated "Inadequate" is over 2.5 times as likely to remain Inadequate" if it is a sponsored academy (18% v 7%)
A secondary school rated "Requires Improvement" is 2.5 times as likely to become "Inadequate" if it is a sponsored academy (20% v 7%)
A secondary school rated "Good" is 5 times as likely to become "Inadequate" if it is a sponsored academy (20% v 4%)
A secondary school rated "Outstanding" is almost 3 times as likely to become "Inadequate" if it is a sponsored academy (8% v 3%)
This analysis only covers secondary schools, as only seven sponsored academy primary schools have had two inspections since conversion. The figures are slightly different from my previous post
as they are based on a more recent Ofsted report (June 2015).
Growing evidence of sponsored academy difficulties
Last week the Sutton Trust published Chain Effects 2015
, on the academy chains that sponsored academies become part of on conversion. examining secondary schools, it found that 15% of sponsored academies are currently rated “inadequate” by Ofsted (compared to 6% for secondary schools overall) and that no less than 44% could be defined as "coasting", based on their 2014 results.
While there are some chains demonstrating “impressive outcomes”, “a larger group of low-performing chains are achieving results that are not improving and may be harming the prospects of their disadvantaged students”. They added that “far from providing a solution to disadvantage, a few chains may be exacerbating it”.
Secondaries: Sponsored academies improve GCSE results at a slower rate
The current and previous Secretaries of State have made regular claims about the progress of sponsored academies, by comparing them to the progress of schools as a whole. Starting from a lower base they are likely to improve more. The key question is how well the results of sponsored academies compare to those of maintained schools starting from a similar point.
For the results in 2011, 2012 and 2013 I analysed the DfE data
and found generally that sponsored academies did no better than maintained schools starting from a similar level. However they also did no worse, though I did point out their results were perhaps inflated by the inclusion of GCSE equivalents.
In 2014 most GCSE equivalents were no longer eligible for the benchmark GCSE result. My initial analysis
showed that the fall in GCSE results from 2013 to 2014 was greater for sponsored academies, when compared to similar schools. I have now, for the first time, compared sponsored academies and maintained schools over the last three years:
In the lower band, those schools who only achieved 20-40% on the GCSE benchmark in 2011, maintained schools improved at a slightly faster rate.
In the higher bands (40-60% and 60% and over) schools overall saw a fall in results as GCSE equivalents were removed from the figures. However the results for sponsored acadmies fell by much more.
Primaries: Sponsored academies improve KS2 results at a slower rate
Three months ago I compared t
he improvement in primary sponsored academies to similar maintained schools from 2012 to 2014. In that case I split the schools into five equal quintiles by their 2012 results.
In the four lower quintiles maintained schools improved their results at a faster rate than those of sponsored academies. Only for the highest quintile did sponsored academies increase at a faster rate.
So for primary schools most in need of improvement, they improved at a faster rate - achieving better KS2 SATs results, if they remained a maintained school.
Summary: No evidence that sponsored academies lead to improvement
None of this analysis has ever been challenged by the DfE. They seek to use different data, but can only get a positive result for sponsored academies by comparing them to all schools, and not to similar maintained schools.
Schools that become sponsored academies are more likely to remain "inadequate", and more likely to become "inadequate" if they are currently have a higher rating. Both secondary and primary schools generally grow at a slower rate, or fall at a faster rate, if they become sponsored academies. And the DfE's own report shows that the vast majority of academy chains have a value added that is below the national average.
Headteachers and teachers in sponsored academies are working hard and doing all they can for their students, just as their colleagues do in other schools. Yet there is clearly something about the nature of sponsored academies that makes it harder for them to improve. Since the same disparity does not seem to exist for converter academies, it seems likely that the problem lies with the academy chains that sponsored academies are part of.
The Sutton Trust report last week revealed that there has been little quality control in the approval of the chains, with over 91% of those applying being approved. Perhaps it is not surprising that a wide variety of people have been able to establish chains, with little quality control and often little previous experience, that this has not led to a better model of school improvement than the long established local authorities.
Questions for the DfE?
This data raises questions for the Department for Education:
* Given that the DfE has this data, and were able to supply it to me, are they aware that sponsored academies are more likely to remain inadequate than maintained schools?
* What is the DfE doing to address the issue of widespread underperformance by academy chains?
* On what evidence does Nicky Morgan claim that sponsored academies are a better route to improvement, and why is the Education Bill based an an approach so at odds with the data?
* Should the bill be scrapped, and replaced with a Bill that is based on the evidence of what helps schools to improve?
* Why has the government refused the amendment (see below) to only allow academy chains to take over schools if they have a successful track record? How will parents feel if their children's school, in a challenging state, is handed to a chain that does not have a successful track record?
The Education Bill: evidence for change
As currently drafted, the Education and Adoption Bill forces the Secretary of State to issue an instant Academy Order if a school is rated "Inadequate". Further, it required the local authority and governing body to implement that order, whether or not they believe it is in the best interest of the school.
The evidence is now clear, from the DfE's FoI release, from analysis of Ofsted's own data and from the Sutton Trust findings that conversion to a sponsored academy is more likely to slow down a school's improvement than to accelerate it.
An amendment was put at the committee stage of the Bill to ensure that academy chains could only take over a school, as a sponsored academy, if it had a successful track record of school improvement. It is hard to argue that this does not make sense, but the amendment was rejected. In the light of the above evidence it is especially important that such an amendment is made, if we really want to ensure that children remain in "Inadequate" schools for as short a period of time as possible.
See also Schools Week
For further evidence of doubts about the performance of sponsored academies, check out my posts on:
"Are academy chains harming the progress of disadvantaged pupils
"? (Sutton Trust report)
"DfE reveals dismal performance of academy chains
" (DfE data)
"Does academy conversion actually lead to slower improvement in schools?
" (Education Select Committee and evidence on primary schools)
"The Academies Illusion: What the data reveals
": The historical data on academies performance
Also, to hear the discussion on the FoI release on Today on Friday 31st July, click through here
Data on Ofsted grades for sponsored academies that converted while inadequate: FoI response from DfE July 2015
Data on last two Ofsted grades: Ofsted Management Information, June 2015
. This lists every inspected school, their current grade and their previous grade, with the dates of both. This report has been published monthly since March 2013 and all these reports are available on the above link. The 3.5% figure for "just over two years ago" refers to the April 2013 report.
Analysis on KS2 and GCSE progression are taken from the DFE's releases of data on all schools in England