Schoolzone blog: Coasting schools and academies

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03 June 2015

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When schools were given the opportunity to leave the LA and become academies, my school's governing body thought long and hard about whether it was a good idea or not and in the end decided it was. We don't regret it, but academisation within the town has created problems: the local grammar is free to expand, while LA schools are being forced to take more pupils than they would like, since the academies can pretty much do as they please.

But has it made any difference to our performance or progress? No.

Nationally, the initiative is still too new to say whether academies are improving more quickly than they did under LA control. Still less to know whether those in academy chains are doing better than those which aren't. Still less (again) to say whether those which were forced in academisation, having overcome the "bureaucratic and legal loopholes", have done so.

So the Morgan initiative to force coasting schools to be taken over by academies seems to be based on a philosophical basis rather than a pedagogical one - continuing the Gove tradition, one might say.

But what is a coasting school anyway? How do we measure whether a school is coasting?

The two ways used by the government are performance data and Ofsted inspections, so we looked into this:

Performance data creates some problems, because the measures are changing - so we could measure those which have been coasting maybe, by looking at SATs scores and GCSE results, but even then the goal posts have changed recently (though see GCSE performance: your magic number) and we soon won't be able to compare new with old.

Ofsted inspections aren't easy to use partly, again, because of changes to the Ofsted Framework over time, partly because schools are inspected at different intervals and so on. But we decided to respond to the challenge and investigate all schools - how their Ofsted inspection outcomes have changed over the years. This is not easy - especially since the DfE have removed the historical data from websites: however, we had already taken the precaution of downloading them before the election. But even with data going back to 2008, it's difficult to organise it show how it has changed over that time - but we have done so.

We thought it reasonable to describe a coasting as one which:

  • isn't Good or Outstanding
  • has three sets of Ofsted inspection data available since 2008
  • hasn't increased its ratings in that time.

This exercise turned up 182 schools, 32 of which are academies, 15 of which are sponsor-led. The breakdown is as follows:

Academy Converter
Sponsor Led
LA school
16 Plus 1 1
Nursery 1 1
Primary 1 8 114 123
PRU/Special 4 4
Secondary 15 7 32 54
Total 17 15 151 183

Morgan hopes to achieve the conversion of a further 1,000 failing schools to academies, but if we look at "failing" schools, which we define here as schools which are:

  • currently Ofsted 4 and
  • have shown no improvement in the last two inspections

the list includes just 307 schools. This suggests either than Morgan will be targeting grade 3 schools as well, or than she anticipates the decline of almost 600 schools during the first few years under her leadership of the DfE.

Neither interpretation sounds good.



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