The claim of ‘insufficient academic pupils’ is being used to explain missing exam scores from Harris academies in a recently published free school impact assessment* for Harris Professional Skills Sixth Form.
Impact assessments estimate whether a proposed free school is likely to be a high, moderate or minimal risk to nearby schools. This is based on criteria such as Ofsted rating, surplus spaces and distance from the proposed school.
Leave aside the argument that the only valid criteria for a new school is whether extra places are needed locally, performance data is also one of the criteria. For secondary schools, this is the ‘latest KS4 headline attainment measure’*. In this batch of impact assessments for free schools opened in 2018, this is usually the Attainment 8 score available at the time, either 2016 or 2017 (provisional). Sometimes this is labelled ‘Average point score (acad)’.
In the impact assessment for Harris Professional Skills Sixth Form, six Harris academies and one Harris sixth form are listed as being less than two-and-a-half miles away. But only Harris Federation Post 16 academy gives the information. Instead of the required data is the excuse ‘insufficient academic pupils’.
If these academies had an ‘insufficient’ number of academic pupils in 2017, there’s been a complete reversal in 2019.
School Performance Tables for five of the six listed academies, Harris South Norwood, Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, Harris Girls’ Academy Bromley, Harris Invictus Academy and Harris Beckenham show their 2019 GCSE cohort having far more previously high-achieving pupils than low-achieving ones. In the case of Harris City Academy, for example, there were just eight previously low-achieving pupils taking exams in 2019 compared with 65 middle-attaining pupils and 97 previously high-achievers.
What about the sixth listed academy, Harris Upper Norwood? Has this also managed to rapidly increase the number of academic pupils (or decrease the number of low-achieving ones) since 2017? The answer is No, because Harris Upper Norwood has amalgamated with South Norwood. Ofsted wrote:
‘…by the end of August 2017, the name Harris Academy Upper Norwood will no longer be used – it will continue to be one of two sites within Harris Academy South Norwood.’
It appears someone forgot to tell the Department for Education. The Harris Professional Skills Sixth Form impact assessment is dated the following December.
FOOTNOTE: It appears that the DfE has allowed this excuse. In that case, perhaps it will extend its application to all secondary schools where the GCSE cohort is skewed towards previously-low attaining pupils, such as non-selective schools (aka secondary moderns) in selective areas.
*Impact assessments and methodology downloadable here