The one million extra pupils in "good" or "outstanding" schools are not due to academies

Henry Stewart's picture
Government ministers have repeatedly claimed that one million more children are in "good" or "outstanding" schools, and that this is a direct result of their academies policy. For example Nick Gibb, speaking at the consideration of the Education and Adoption Bill on Friday 11th September, said "there are 1,100 sponsored academies that started life as under-performing schools, which is a colossal achievement that has led directly to over 1 million [more] children being taught in “good” or “outstanding” schools." (col 208)

Analysis of Ofsted Data View does indicate that it is true that one million more pupils are in schools rated "good" or "outstanding" and it is clearly the case that many schools have been converted to academies. But a basic analysis of the data suggests it was not academisation that caused any improvement.

Vast majority of improved primaries are not academies

78% of the increase has been in primary schools, where only a small minority of schools have become academies. Indeed the latest Ofsted dataset indicates that there are 167 sponsored academy primary schools that are currently rated "good" or "outstanding". Assuming these have the same average size as primaries overall (411 pupils), this gives a total of 68,537 children.

Extra pupils in "good" or "outstanding" primaries           996,604
Pupils in "good" or "outstanding" sponsored primaries    68,637
% in sponsored academies                                                  7%

So for every 100 extra pupils in "good" or "outstanding" primaries, 93 were in schools that were not sponsored academies. The percentage of primary schools that are "good" or "outstanding" has gone from 67% in 2010 to 82% in 2015 but the vast majority of this improvement has been due to improvements in maintained schools, not in sponsored academies. Nick Gibb is entirely wrong to say the improvement results "directly" from the performance of sponsored academies.

Ratings for primaries are improving but more secondaries are being rated "inadequate"

The Ofsted annual report of 2014 made note of the fact that primary schools were continuing to improve but that this was not the case for secondaries (where the majority of schools are not academies). Indeed there is a worrying increase in the number rated "inadequate":

“Children in primary schools have a better chance than ever of attending an effective school. Eighty-two per cent of primary schools are now good or outstanding, which means that 190,000 more pupils are attending good or outstanding primary schools than last year. However, the picture is not as positive for secondary schools: only 71% are good or outstanding, a figure that is no better than last year. Some 170,000 pupils are now in inadequate secondary schools compared with 100,000 two years ago.” (Ofsted annual report 2014 p8)

I have noted here that sponsored secondaries are far more likely to remain or become "inadequate" than similar maintained schools, and here that sponsored academies lead to slower school improvement. The concern is that the direct effect of sponsored academies has actually been this substantial increase in secondaries rated "inadequate".

The data indicates that the Education Bill, in forcing all "inadequate" or "coasting" schools to become sponsored academies, is likely to substantially increase the number of pupils in "inadequate" schools.


Data Notes

Data on pupil numbers come from DfE for 2010 and 2015.

Data on schools overall Ofsted ratings come from Ofsted Data View.

The Ofsted dataset on ratings for all schools (June 2015), from which the numbers of Sponsored academies that are "good" or "outstanding" were calculated can be found here.


My calculations indicate that there are 997,000 more children in "good" or "outstanding" primaries in 2015 than in 2010 and 274,000 in secondaries, giving a total of 1.27 million. However 275,000 of the extra primary pupils are due to the increase in pupil numbers. If we take these out, the total is 999,000 extra pupils in "good" or "outstanding" schools, effectively the one milliion that the government claims.
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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 20/09/2015 - 08:28

Thanks, Henry, for exploding one of Nick Gibb's oft-repeated soundbites. If he'd read Ofsted's last Annual Report he would have seen that the increased proportion of good or better schools was in the primary sector where most of the schools are non-academies. It followed, then, that the increased number of pupils in good or better schools was in this sector and not in secondary where most of the schools are now academies and where a rise in the proportion of good or better schools has stalled.

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