Ofsted: Secondaries not improving fast enough. Most are academies. Coincidence?

Henry Stewart's picture

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.

Sponsored academies are more likely to remain or become inadequate

An examination of the data suggests that it is not a coincidence, as was revealed in this post:

  • A secondary school is twice as likely to stay Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy
  • If a secondary school is rated Requires Improvement, it is over twice as likely to become Inadequate if it is a Sponsored Academy -
  • If a secondary school is rated Good, it is almost four times as likely to become Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy
  • If a secondary school is rated Outstanding, it is almost three times as likely to become Inadequate if it is a sponsored academy

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%.  

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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 02/12/2015 - 09:15

Wilshaw said all Doncaster 18 state secondaries were academies in his 'A Nation Divided' speech. He claimed structure of schools made no difference to how an LA performs overall. He compared Doncaster with two poor-performing LAs: Knowsley where only half of the secondaries were academies and St Helens where only two secondary schools were academies.

But it pays to look at the stats behind this statement.

Knowsley has just six secondary schools: two are VA Catholic schools (one Inadequate, one RI), one is an academy converter (Inadequate down from Good in first academy inspection), two are sponsored academies (one RI, the other not inspected but predecessor school was Inadequate) and one is a community school (RI).

Monitoring at the two RI schools shows they are taking 'effective action' while the third was judged Good for Leadership and Management, and Behaviour and Safety despite the overall RI rating. The Inadequate academy is making reasonable steps to get out of Special Measures. The Inadequate school is in the process of joining a MAT.

If full inspections of the three RI schools raise them to Good, then suddenly 50% of Knowsley's secondary schools are Good or better. If the uninspected academy also turns out to be Good, then two-thirds would be Good or better.

Such is the effect of small sample size.

Similarly, St Helen's has just nine secondary schools: three community schools (all Good), three VA schools (one Good, one RI, one Inadequate) and two sponsored academies (one Inadequate, one RI). Tempting as it is to say this vindicates community schools and damns sponsored academies, it would be misleading to say so because the sample size is too small.

We should expect the Chief HMI to be aware of this

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 02/12/2015 - 09:35

'What on earth have the political leaders been doing over the years in this major city?', Wilshaw asked about Bradford where he claimed generation after generation had been failed due to political ineptitude.

But Bradford's education was run by Serco for ten years until July 2011 when it was taken back in house. Serco's involvement in Bradford featured in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Britain's Fat Cats, where it was revealed that targets had to be revised downwards because Serco failed to meet them.

Ofsted inspected Bradford's school improvement service four years later in June 2015. It found Bradford had been too slow in improving its schools but there was 'cause for optimism'. Heads and leaders talked of a 'step-change', a 'breath of fresh air' and 'game-changing'. Inspectors found a sense of urgency was shared by politicians of all parties.

And along comes Wilshaw crushing the optimism with his big boots.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 02/12/2015 - 09:44

In 2014, Ofsted said Doncaster's school improvement service was 'ineffective'. In 2015, Ofsted returned and found:

'Local authority leaders have redoubled their efforts since the inspection in March 2014. They have addressed the areas of improvement that were recommended by the previous inspection with vigour and urgency. Elected members and local authority senior leaders passionately promote their vision of improving outcomes for young people in Doncaster.'

Inspectors found the council's lead member for education 'promotes the engagement of schools' including visiting all secondary academies. There are regular meetings with the Regional Schools Commissioner where concerns about academies are raised.

Again, Wilshaw appears to have ignored this inspection report in order to name-and-shame Doncaster.

Michael Pyke's picture
Wed, 02/12/2015 - 10:09

Wilshaw is a classic case of an over-promoted person, who thinks that running a bureaucratic arm of the state, designed to enforce political decisions, is no different from running a school (at which, whatever reservations one might have, he was undoubtedly effective). Like his model, Chris Woodhead, he clings stubbornly to the notion that he is independent of political considerations and can say what he likes, which is why Gove tried to get rid of him - and would have done so had he himself not been sacked first. Woodhead was sacked when he became a political nuisance and, once the government decides that it needs to be nice to teachers for a while, Wilshaw will be put out to grass. These people think of themselves as movers and shakers and don't realise that they are just political tools.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 02/12/2015 - 11:04

This is report is both a manifestation of and evidence of the destructive impact of:

1. measuring the wrong things in terms of educational performance
2. the Sir Kenneth Robinson's analogy of the factory style production line approach to education
3. ultimately the GERM with all its marketised standardisation to enable qualifications based evaluation and international comparisons leading a hubristic focus on international standing rather than the local, regional and national need underpinned by educating the whole person for their wellbeing.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 21:22

Once again, I am in complete agreement with you Andy.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 03/12/2015 - 10:42

The Guardian reports that Bradford rejects Wilshaw's 'failing schools' attack.

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