The government argues that the only route to school improvement is through academisation. That is the basis of the Education and Adoption Bill, that any school rated "inadequate" must be issued with an academy order. Today Ofsted's annual report bemoaned the slow improvement in secondary schools: "Across England, 85% of primary schools are good or outstanding compared with 74% of secondary schools." Now wait a moment. We are told that schools need to become sponsored academies to improve, But primary schools, which have few academies, are improving at a fast rate. Secondary schools, of which over 60% are academies, are not improving fast enough. Is this just coincidence or is the government wrong on the solution to school underperformance? Ofsted has focused on the gap between secondary performance in the South and the North (a gap which, Ofsted points out, does not exist in the primary sector). In many of the local authorities highlighted the majority of schools are academies. In Doncaster, featured on tonight's BBC News, I understand* that every single secondary school is an academy or free school. Last year the Deputy Director of Children's Services in Doncaster wrote to the Secretary of State to complain that school standards had fallen since conversion to academy status, and expressed her frustration that she could do nothing about it. At a meeting of ADCS (the Association of Directors of Children's Services) she revealed that she had not even received a reply.
An examination of the data suggests that it is not a coincidence, as was revealed in this post:
This data comes from a very simple analysis of Ofsted’s spread-sheet of the current and previous Ofsted ratings, and refers to schools that have had two inspections since conversion. For schools facing their first inspection after conversion, a secondary school is four times more likely to remain inadequate if it becomes a sponsored academy. A primary school is twelve times more likely to remain inadequate. (Full details here.) The data is clear. Conversion of "inadequate" schools to become sponsored academies results in many more schools being inadequate than if they had remained in the maintained sector. If the Education Bill goes through, the danger is that the success of primary schools will falter and possibly go into reverse. Data Note: Doncaster secondaries: The DfE data for summer 2014 GCSE results indicates that 84% (16 out of 19) of Doncaster's secondaries are academies or free schools. However John Roberts, education correspondent for the Yorkshire Post, tweeted that is now 100%.