Local authority maintained schools are slightly more likely to be good or better than academies, newly-released data from the Department for Education (DfE) admits. 89% of LA-maintained schools were in the top two Ofsted grades*.
This compares favourably with inspection results of academies which are not sponsored**. 88% of non-sponsored academies are good or better.
Yet the DfE media department has focussed its praise and publicity on academies. Education secretary Damian Hinds said:
‘Academies have been at the heart of reforms that have revolutionised education and driven up standards since 2010, and this is just the latest evidence that they are leading the way in turning around some of the most challenging schools.’
The DfE puff piece concentrated on the 380,000 extra pupils attending good or better sponsored academies since 2017. But, as Schools Week points out, the number of pupils in sponsored academies hasn’t remained static. It, like the school population as a whole, has also risen in the same period.
It is not possible to say how much the increase in the number of pupils attending good or better sponsored academies is due to improvement in these schools or attributable to demographics.
In any case, sponsored academies are less likely to be good or better than non-sponsored converter academies or LA schools. 73% of the sponsored academies which have been inspected are good or better. Not all have been inspected since becoming sponsored and some which have been inspected have since changed hands (see Notes).
DfE data shows that 32% of inspected sponsored academies who were previously inadequate LA schools are still less than good. Rather than ‘leading the way’ in improving inadequate schools, the data suggests the sponsored academy solution hasn’t been successful in raising inadequate schools to good in a third of cases.
60% of English schools are still not academies. Yet ministers and the DfE publicity department constantly praise the four out of ten schools not under the stewardship of LAs.. The six out of ten English schools which are not academies are ignored at best and vilified at worst. It is unacceptable that the department in charge of supporting all English schools is prejudiced against the majority.
*Data as at March 2019.
**Non-sponsored academies are converter academies, free schools and non-sponsored UTCs/studio schools.
NOTES: The data had a separate category for sponsored academies ‘where Ofsted relates to a predecessor URN’. This presumably means the good or better rating is actually for a sponsored academy which has changed its Unique Reference Number. Just 13% of sponsored academies in this category were good or better before changing its URN. This suggests that 87% of sponsored academies with new URNs were less than good before changing URN. The most likely reason for academies being issued with a new URN is when they are transferred to a different academy trust.