Sponsored academies: more likely to "stay inadequate" or become "inadequate"

Henry Stewart's picture
Nicky Morgan justifies the new Education Bill, and its forced academisation, on the basis that no child should remain in an "inadequate" school a day longer than is necessary. The Bill requires the Education Secretary to issue an Academy order for any maintained school that is rated Inadequate by Ofsted.

However an analysis of Ofsted school ratings indicates that secondary schools are more likely to stay inadequate, and also more likely to become inadequate (if they currently have a higher rating) if they are sponsored academies. The way to ensure as few children as possible experience "inadequate" schools appears to be, according to Ofsted's data, for them to remain with the local authority.

A secondary school is twice as likely to stay Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy

After Morgan's statement a Labour researcher contacted me to ask what the evidence was on the effect of academy status on Ofsted ratings. I hadn't done that analysis and so set about searching for the data. Ofsted does not publish data linking inspections before and after conversion, so the analysis had to be based on sponsored academies which have had two inspections since conversion. The analysis is based on 211 secondary schools that are sponsored academies.

Of the 34 sponsored academies previously rated Inadequate, 18% remained Inadequate in their latest Ofsted inspection. Only 6% rose to Good. Of the 56 maintained schools in this category, just 9% remained inadequate and 27% became Good.

If a secondary  school is rated Requires Improvement, it is over twice as likely to become Inadequate if it is a Sponsored Academy

Of 110 sponsored academies previously rated Requited Improvement, 20% fell back to Inadequate in their latest Ofsted inspection. 44% rose to Good or Outstanding. Of the 530 maintained schools in this category, just 8% became Inadequate. 60% rose to Good or Outstanding.

If a secondary school is rated Good, it is almost four times as likely to become Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy

Of 43 sponsored academies previously rated Good, 19% fell back to Inadequate. 56% stayed Good and 5% rose to Outstanding. For the 483 maintained schools in this category, only 5% became Inadequate. 54% stayed Good and 16% rose to Outstanding.

This may be a reflection that the Sponsored Academies were, at some point in the recent past, weak (as this would be the reason for becoming a sponsored academy). However that does realise questions about the robustness of any improvement

If a secondary school is rated Outstanding, it is almost three times as likely to become Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy

Of 24 sponsored academies previously rated Outstanding, 8% fell to Inadequate. Of the 148 maintained schools that were previously Outstanding, just 3% fell in Inadequate.

Ideology or Evidence?

Converter academies, schools that were already Good or Outstanding, do not appear to have the same problem. The higher likelihood to stay or become inadequate is specific to sponsored academies. However this is the academy model that is being proposed for "inadequate" or "coasting" schools under the Education Bill.

The evidence seems to indicate that, in terms of Ofsted rating, a school is more likely to improve and less likely to stay or become inadequate if it is not a sponsored academy. This may be because most sponsored academies are part of academy chains, whose problems are clear from DfE data. With only 4 of the 20 biggest chains showing above average results, in terms of value added, the solution of giving an "underperforming" school to a chain needs to be closely examined.

The Bill now goes to the Education Select Committee. Let's hope that they choose to base their view on the evidence and not on ideology.


Data note

This analysis is based on Ofsted's spread-sheet of the current and previous Ofsted ratings for every school in the country. Ofsted does not include ratings from a previous status and so this information relates solely to sponsored academies which have had two Ofsted inspections since conversion. The data is the result of a very simple analysis, that anybody who understands pivot tables can do in under 10 minutes. (Though I couldn't create a pivot table from the initial spread-sheet, and had to copy it into a new spreadsheet to carry out the analysis.)

This analysis is based entirely on secondary schools. This is because only two primary sponsored academies are listed as having had two inspections since conversion.

I have submitted Freedom of Information requests, to DfE and Ofsted, asking for details of the ratings for academies before conversion. I will post these results if they are made available.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Rob Anthony's picture
Sat, 11/07/2015 - 17:32

A forced change to a school's status is more likely to result in staff leaving the school, either because they disagree with the change or because the new trust implements staffing changes.
Furthermore, a rapid change of governance with cause disruption to the school. Major staffing and governance changes will mean the school goes backwards not forwards.
These changes can take years to get over.

Henry Stewart's picture
Sun, 12/07/2015 - 13:10

Good points, Rob. Also Rob Kelsall has reminded me of this Guardian article quoting Ofsted inspections who say that conversion of primary schools undermines their efforts to improve:


This correlates with my analysis showing that primaries do indeed improve at a slower pace if they are converted to become academies:


Patrick Hadley's picture
Sun, 12/07/2015 - 14:32

While I applaud all the research that Henry Stewart does about this unfortunately he is fighting a losing battle.

The move to privatise all our schools, begun by Labour, has nothing to do with evidence about improving standards and everything to do with the right wing political philosophy which says that privately owned and run institutions are always to be preferred to those under democratic control. This is a fundamental belief of the Tory and LibDem parties, and unfortunately also of the majority of elected members of the Labour party. Those who believe in privatisation have no interest at all in any evidence that suggests that it makes things worse - they just know that is the right thing to do.

While it may be providing a useful service to put on record sensible objections to this policy, in reality the completion of the change to a fully privatised school system is unstoppable. Before the privatisation of our railways, power companies, North Sea oil industry, water industry and so on, the same sort of arguments were made, but despite ordinary people being much worse off as a result of privatisation nobody is even trying to return us to sanity.

John Mountford's picture
Sun, 12/07/2015 - 21:16

Henry, I am loath to lean towards Patrick's grim analysis of the situation as I adhere to the idea that where there's life there's hope. However, I'd like to refer back to your recent thread,


In the comments, I attached a copy of a letter to my MP asking that he support the campaign against forced academisation, as the Bill in question clearly threatens. I received his reply two days ago and am utterly frustrated by his response. This is what he had to say,

"I support more schools having academy status and am pleased to see that the policy has already created improvements in a number of schools that were previously classified as 'inadequate'. Furthermore, I endorse measures to imp[rove low-performing schools and believe that turning them into academies is preferable. There are also schools that have been classified as outstanding which have decided to become academies, highlighting the benefits of taking such action. I have enclosed statements from CEOs of academy trusts who give their opinion about academies and sponsorship, as well as from Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary. The commitment to turn failing schools into academies was also outlined in the Conservative Party's Manifesto. Given that the Conservative Party now has a majority in Parliament, the Government intends to keep its promise."

He followed this up by saying,

"Academies give children the chance to receive a better education than if they were in failing schools. Furthermore, the freedom that academies have means it enables children to reach their full potential in a way that meets their individual needs through putting education in the hands of teachers and freeing them from unnecessary bureaucracy."

I am in the process of writing back to him as, from his closing remark, he clearly wishes that I do. ("Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further issues to raise.")

I invite readers to offer up their suggestions and undertake to publish my supplementary questions/comments on this matter in light of their responses.

Patrick, on the basis of the highly partisan reply from one MP on this important matter, I guess I have to concede that probably your pragmatism trumps my hope. But, I'm not about to give up any time soon.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Mon, 13/07/2015 - 12:30

The more evidence that is produced which shows that academies do worse than LEA schools, the faster the Conservatives will move to complete privatisation. As long as there are still some LEA schools they could be an embarrassment to the supporters of privatisation, so it will be necessary to get rid of all of them at the earliest possible opportunity.

When the process is completed all the data will be used to "prove" the privatisation was a great success. There is absolutely no chance whatever of preventing this.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 13/07/2015 - 08:27

Henry, your findings match those of the National Audit Office which found informal interventions such as local support for schools in difficulties were more effective than formal interventions such as academy conversions.

The Public Bill Committee for the Education and Adoption Bill has requested written evidence. Your analysis would be very useful. But you'll need to hurry because the Committee's stops accepting written evidence tomorrow (14 July).

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 09:53

Patrick - the situation is similar to that in the NHS where some provision has been taken over by private providers. But, as Private Eye, constantly points out, this has seen many failures: Hinchingbroke Hospital contract given up early; Nottingham dermatology privatisation an unmitigated disaster; Serco dropping its out-of-hours service in Cornwall because it didn't reach standards.

Gove, remember, said he would let groups like Serco run schools in England. Morgan is oiling the way with her 'coasting' schools agenda. The Education and Adoption Bill removes the right of stakeholders to object to academy conversion and have no say over a choice of sponsor. So we'll have more charitable arms of for-profit companies like EdisonLearning and Kunskapskollan running English schools.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 10:00


Do you by any chance have any up to date figures for how many forced academisations there have been directly by issue of academy orders?And any estimates of 'jumped before they were pushed' by brokers?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 10:42

Barry - this info isn't easily available. David Wolfe QC told the Education Select Committee there were three types of academies: 'Rewarded Succeeders' (those Good/Outstanding schools who could convert), 'Punished Failures' (forced conversions) and 'Near-Boiled Frogs' (those who jumped before they were pushed). It would be difficult, if not impossible, to discover how many were in the latter category.

In April 2012, a governor of Hockwold and Methwold Community School admitted his school was jumping before being pushed but such admissions are rare. As it happened, the school improved from Inadequate to RI while still a local authority school but this didn't prevent its later conversion with the Academies Transformation Trust in Jan 2013. It changed its name to Iceni Academy - Ofsted found it still requires improvement.

… requested written evidence. This Committee’s stops accepting written evidence today (14 July).  Henry Stewart Local Schools’ Network has collated data which shows very clearly that schools which are sponsored academies are much more …

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 10:48

The UK Statistics Authority has criticised the DfE for not making it clear the limitations of stats re improvement rates. It said:

'Commenting on the limitations would make it clearer to Ministers and to other users
that the statistics could not be used to infer a causal link between school type and
either attainment or rates of improvement.'

This is worth repeating: data re sponsored/converter academies and non-academies could NOT be used to say there is a 'causal link' between school types and 'attainment or rates of improvement.

See end of letter from UKSA to Ian Bell at DfE (6 July 2015) downloadable here

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 12:39

Thanks Janet

Do we know how many got the full Downhills treatment?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 16:04

Barry - two years ago Henry challenged the DfE account that it had only forced five schools to become academies.

That will, of course, now be out-of-date as more schools have become academies whether as 'Punished Failures' or 'Near-Boiled Frogs'.

In January 2014, a judge blocked forced conversion of Warren Comprehensive School. According to Ofsted monitoring (June 2014), however, Gove had confirmed on 12 May that The Warren would become an academy from September 2014. Inspectors said, 'The local authority remains opposed to this and is set to seek a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision on 25 June 2014.' The review failed. The Warren School became a sponsored academy with Loxford School Trust on 1 September 2014. I suppose The Warren could be described as having had the 'Downhills' treatment.

Brian's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 16:48

A school local to me becomes a 'forced' academy in September despite significant local opposition. In his letter explaining his reasons Lord Nash quoted from the 32% of respondents who supported the change. No such comments from the 68% who opposed the change were included. The 'in favour' group noted that they doubted the school could improve from its 'special measures' designation in February 2014.

At an inspection in June 2015 the school not just removed from special measures in sixteen months, but judged to be 'good.'

I wait for Lord Nash or maybe Nicki Morgan to quote in public this extract from the Ofsted report.

'The local authority has successfully steered the school through a turbulent period. It has provided strong support to the school, with a focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning. This support has had a positive impact in raising the quality of teaching to good and in rapidly raising standards in all year groups. The local authority rightly recognises the school’s strong capacity now to drive its own school improvement and is providing a more ‘light-touch’ approach.'

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 14/07/2015 - 17:38

Brian - it is unlikely Morgan and Lord Nash will take any notice of the improved Ofsted judgement. It actually makes the school more ripe for conversion because it has a firm foundation for future improvements which the sponsoring academy trust will take credit for.

… with just 3% of all schools. Henry Stewart (Local Schools Network – LSN) has analysed data to show that sponsored academies are twice as likely to remain ‘inadequate’ than schools …

Add new comment

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