Only 15% of the twenty largest academy chains perform above the national average on ‘added value’ compared to 44% of 100 local authorities**. That’s the finding of NFER research
published by the Local Government Association (LGA) today. The report also showed ‘on average, pupils attending maintained schools achieved the same high standard of GCSE results in 2014 as those attending academies.’ These findings rather contradict the Department for Education spokesperson who told the Independent ‘academies were the key to providing an “excellent education”’. And it further undermines the claim that academy status, especially with a sponsor or within a chain, is the best way of improving schools.
A National Audit Office Funding for Disadvantaged Pupils
published yesterday said while the pupil premium had ‘the potential to bring about a significant improvement in outcomes’, it wasn’t always employed effectively. Neither had it always increased school budgets because ‘other real-terms reductions’ in school funding had a negative impact. 16% of the most disadvantaged secondary schools had experienced a fall in real terms of per-pupil funding by over 5% between 2010/11 and 2014/15, the NAO estimated.
But Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will claim in a speech to the Sutton Trust today that funding to the most deprived secondary schools is 41% higher. 5% lower or 41% higher – some discrepancy, surely?
The Sutton Trust’s report, Pupil Premium: Next Steps
confirms the NAO finding about ineffective use of the pupil premium. Its survey reveals ‘very few schools choose some of the best bets for low cost effective approaches.’ The Sutton Trust highlights its excellent Teacher Toolkit
which lists the pros and cons of various interventions in an easily accessible way. It’s a boon for schools wanting to quickly find the most effective interventions and the costs involved.
Morgan will cite some of the Toolkit evidence in her speech. It’s odd, then, that many Government preferences are contradicted by the resource
. In her speech Morgan will pay tribute to ARK Charter Academy in Portsmouth because it’s introduced longer school days. But the toolkit found extending school time had ‘low impact for moderate cost’.
But Morgan thinks extending school days is desirable to drive up standards. This goal would also be achieved if, among other things, disadvantaged pupils weren’t ‘ushered towards easier subjects’. It’s unclear what these ‘easier subjects’ are – non E-Bacc subjects, perhaps? Or does she mean equivalent exams? If she does, she should remember sponsored academies made more use of equivalent qualifications compared to similar maintained schools
*. The ARK academy she will praise made extensive use of these in 2012/13 – 68% of Charter Academy’s pupils reached the benchmark 5 GCSEs (including equivalents) A*-C including Maths and English but this fell to 32%
when equivalent exams were removed. And in 2013/14
, just 9% of Charter Academy’s GCSE candidates achieved the full suite of EBacc subjects (Morgan’s ‘rigorous academic qualifications'). The national average was 24.2%.
A well-known Govean phrase will appear in Morgan’s speech – ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’. Rather than repeating what her predecessor said (which adds to the perception she is little more than a puppet), the Secretary of State would do better to read the evidence that academies are not the only key to an ‘excellent education’.
*Local Government Association/NFER report Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014
3 July. Barry Wise (first comment) poured water on this statistic. I maintained comparing value-added between large academy chains and local authorities was a valid comparison to make. But there are reasons to be cautious about the result:
1 Twenty is rather a small number to come to reliable conclusions. Any small variation would have a disproportionate effect on percentages.
2 The local authority results would include results for academies. In some small LAs eg Rutland, Doncaster, all secondary schools are academies. This raises the question about how far LAs can influence academy results.
3 Academies which perform well on value added would (obviously) raise the LA's overall figure. The converse is also true - academies which perform poorly would depress the LA's figure. This raises further question: how reliable is it praise/censure LAs for secondary performance when the majority of its secondary schools are outside their stewardship?