Sponsored academies will mean 49,000 extra pupils in "inadequate" schools

Henry Stewart's picture
The data released last week by the DfE, in response to my Freedom of Information request, revealed the effect of turning maintained schools into sponsored academies. If every school rated "inadequate" by Ofsted becomes a sponsored academy then - on these figures - it is set to lead to 49,000 extra pupils remaining in an "inadequate" school, compared to remaining as maintained schools.

number pupils inadequate schools

The FoI data showed that a secondary school is four times as likely to remain inadequate, at its next Ofsted inspection, if it is a sponsored academy (27.1% v 6.8%) and a primary school is twelve times as likely (7.6% v 0.6%). For more details, see my previous post.

"Inadequate" schools much more likely to progress if they don't become academies.

Speaking on the Today programme on 3 June, Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan justified the provisions of the Education and Adoption Bill, forcing "inadequate" schools to become sponsored academies, stating: “I don’t think it’s right that children should spend a day longer in an ‘inadequate’ school than is absolutely necessary.” Her claim was that forcing every "inadequate" rated school into an academy would achieve this.

As Schools Week reported, the DfE responded to my analysis of the FoI data by arguing that if only 8% of primary schools remained "inadequate", then sponsored academies resulted in 92% improving. This is true, but it is unclear why the DfE thinks that 92% is a better success rate than the 99.4% achieved by those which do not become academies.

The example I gave on the Today programme (31st July) was of a car. If I had a car that got to its destination 99.4% of the time, I might want one with a better success rate. But if somebody came along with a new model that only got there 92% of the time, I would not be impressed and would not be inclined to switch.

Nicky Morgan talks of "too many pupils languishing in underperforming schools" but this is not backed up by the data. For schools that remain with the local authority, 93% of secondaries and 99.4% of primaries improve beyond "inadequate" by the time of their next inspection. On average this is less than 18 months later. Of 331 primary schools that were rated "inadequate" at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only 2 remained "inadequate" at their most recent inspection.

The Education and Adoption Bill is targetting a problem that does not exist. Very very few schools "languish" as "inadequate". Instead local authorities, or whoever is responsible for helping and supporting maintained schools, have a remarkable track record of improvement.

The difference in success rates means 49,000 children remaining in "inadequate" schools

As sponsored academies are less successful than maintained schools in moving out of "inadequate", that actually means more pupils - not less - remaining in schools rated "inadequate". Those percentages add up. The difference is no less than 49,000 children.

% remaining "inadequate" at next inspection
Sponsored academies27.1%7.6%
Maintained schools6.8%0.6%


Number of pupils remaining in inadequate schools
if all maintained v if all sponsored academies
Sponsored academies57,3486,736
Maintained schools14,432505
Total 49,147


See Data Notes below for details of the calculation.

Will MPs vote for an Education Bill that goes completely against the evidence?

The data is clear. A school rated "inadequate" is much more likely to move out of that grade if it does not become an academy. (My post here showed a school is also much more likely to become "inadequate" from a current rating of "Outstanding", "Good" or "RI" if it is a sponsored academy.)

I have submitted a further FoI request, asking if the DfE has itself carried out this comparison between the success rates of maintained schools and sponsored academies with "inadequate" schools. I am curious to find out if they have carried out the analysis and were aware that maintained schools are more successful or that the entire Education and Adoption Bill is based on assertion and not evidence.

The Education Select Committee stated that “academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school" and called on the Secretary of State to stop exaggerating their impact (more here). The Sutton Trust stated, on the academy chains that sponsored academies become part of, “far from providing a solution to disadvantage, a few chains may be exacerbating it” (more here).

The Education and Adoption BIll forces academisation as the only solution for "inadequate" or "coasting" schools. In doing so, it flies against the evidence. If MPs choose to pass it, it will be a decision to ignore the evidence and base their vote purely on ideology. And the evidence shows that it will lead to tens of thousands of children remaining in "inadequate" schools longer than if the schools had not been converted to academies.

Judging on Ofsted ratings

Some have asked whether to is fair to base this argument on Ofsted ratings, given the widespread criticism of Ofsted. The first reason for using the Ofsted rating of "inadequate" is that this is the justification used by Nicky Morgan. My question here is whether the provisions of the Education and Adoption Bill make sense even on the Secretary of State's own terms.

It is certainly the case that some Ofsted "inadequate" ratings have been unjustified. The downgrading of Sir John Cass in Tower Hamlets, from "Outstanding" to "Inadequate", is one example. However, whatever we think about Ofsted, it is normally the case that a school rated "inadequate" is in need of help and support. The key question is whether it will get better support as a maintained school or as a sponsored academy. Judging by the data, there is simply no contest.


Data Notes

Note: This calculation is based on the fact that there are 3.54 million pupils in secondary schools in England, and 4.21 million in primary schools. 6% of secondary schools and 2% of primary schools are, according to Ofsted Data View, currently rated "Inadequate". If 27% of inadequate schools remain inadequate that is 27% of 6% of 3.54 million = 57,348. If only 7% remain inadequate (as is the track record of maintained schools) then the number of pupils remaining in "inadequate" secondaries would be 6.8% of 6% of 3.54 million = 13,432. The difference is 42,916. The primary calculation is worked out on the same basis.

There is a certain level of estimation involved in the calculation, as Ofsted Data View figures are rounded to the nearest percentage. The calculation also assumes that the schools involved are, on average, of the same size as the average secondary and average primary. In fact this means the 49,000 may be an underestimate as sponsored academies are on average larger. (A secondary sponsored academy averages 1,119 pupils, compared to 944 for a maintained secondary.)

The data on progress of maintained schools from Inadequate is based on the Ofsted Management Information report of 30 June 2015. This gives the last two inspection ratings for every inspected school in England.

Data on the total number of pupils, and also average size of schools is taken from the DfE data on individual schools.

Full details on the FoI release of data is given in my previous post, including links to the DfE file.
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