90% of parents said their child’s school was good or very good,
the second wave Longitudinal Study of Young People in England
revealed. The study, which surveyed Year 9 pupils and their parents, also found parents were ‘overwhelmingly’ satisfied with discipline at their child’s school.
The research found pupils’ aspirations had risen since the first wave study: 88% of Y9 pupils now expected to remain in full-time education
at 16+ compared with 79% in the earlier research. 41% planned to apply to university compared with 34% in the first study.
Whether this good news will appear in a Department for Education (DfE) press release depends on how the department can spin it. It could, for example, say it’s a vindication for the academy conversion programme which allegedly gives schools more ‘autonomy’*. But two-fifths (41%) of the Year 9s were in local authority (LA) maintained schools. 35% were in converter academies, 10% in sponsored academies, 7% in independent schools and 1% in special schools.
The study found ‘the average school day did not deviate greatly from what would be considered a traditional school day’ irrespective of type of school. This disproves the claim made by ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove that academies have longer school days and that state schools must open longer in order to compete with independent schools**
Schools were now ‘significantly more likely’ to provide extra-curricular activities compared with the first-wave study. Bearing in mind nearly half of the schools were LA maintained schools, this shows it is not necessary to become an academy in order to offer such activities. Sponsored academies were more likely to provide opportunities for pupils to study during the weekend (38% of the pupils attended such a school). 26% of pupils in LA schools had the same opportunity compared with 24% in independent schools and 20% attending academy converters. This, again, disproves the assertion that academy conversion increases study time.
Children appeared to be confused about what behaviour was expected of them, the study revealed. 74% of pupils in schools which they considered ‘too strict’ said teachers made it clear how they expected children to behave. However, 87% in schools where they thought discipline was ‘about right’ said teachers made their expectations clear. This seems to confound the view that stringent ‘zero tolerance’ policies are essential if pupils are to know how they're expected to behave: pupils thought expectations of behaviour were more explicit in schools not
considered ‘too strict’.
‘Young people were, on the whole, positive about school. They were likely to think that discipline was about right, know what was expected of them, enjoy school, work as hard as they could and undertake homework,’ the report concluded.
Young people and their schools of whatever type should be praised for this. And this positive picture doesn’t just apply to academies.
*The Academies Commission (2013) found the extra freedoms which come with academy conversion don’t amount to much: non-academies can do most things academies can do.
**The main reason for independent schools offering longer hours is when they are boarding schools. The extra-curricular activities fill the void caused by pupils remaining in school rather than joining their families.