Schoolzone blog: So do academies perform better or not?

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02 Feb 2015


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We investigate claims that schools can be made to improve by forcing the to convert to academies.

The government is promising/threatening to force low performing schools to become academies, despite the fact that the education select committee has reported in some detail, that they are no better at improving performance than other schools.

On this morning's Today programme, Nick Gibb refuted - or at least refused to confirm - the committee's findings. As the GCSE data came out last week, we decided to look into this ourselves.

First though, let's clarify the government proposal: that weak schools have their leadership (presumably staff and governors) replaced by either that of another strong school, or from an academy trust. What isn't clear in the proposal is whether there are enough schools available to provide this support, nor where the funding would come from.

So, looking at the data, we need to take into account that:

  1. Converter academies were all rated Good or Outstanding on conversion, so should perform better (See below for profiling used in this analysis)
  2. Sponsored academies are mostly those which were performing badly before being forced in being an academy.
  3. The ratings and school types are as they are now - not necessarily as they were when they achieved the results.

Unsurprisingly then we find that converter activities perform best:

5 A* to C inc E&M
2011
2012
2013
2014
Sponsored 47.1% 49.5% 41.3% 45.3%
Converter 67.1% 66.9% 68.3% 64.5%
Other state schools 57.3% 57.7% 59.4% 55.2%

If we look at Outstanding schools only, we find that, leaving aside this year's national dip in performance, converters and non-academies have made little improvement over this period, whereas sponsored academies have improved considerably, with no dip this year. However, this is only 47 schools (with Ofsted data).

Looking at Good and Outstanding schools, again (unsurprisingly) Converters perform best and Sponsored, worst. However, Sponsored academies have shown no overall improvement in this period, while Converters and Non-Academies have improved only marginally (with Non-academies improving at twice the rate).

If we look at Requires Improvement and Inadequate schools, we find a different picture again: ignoring this year's dip, Converters and Sponsored academies show no improvement, whereas Non-academies have improved from 52.6% to 54%. Not huge, but something. Also, Converters and Non-academies show almost identical performance (in 2014, Converters performed 1.2% better).

Conclusion

On the basis of 5 A* to C inc E&M:

  • The rate of improvement has been low, but Non-academies have made better progress than academies - they are improving at twice the rate.
  • The trend data is quite unreliable because we can't tell when the schools became academies and there are really only three years of comparable data to look at (2014 shown above for illustrative purposes)
  • However this data does not support the government's strategy, so there must be some other factors at play which we have not been told about in this context.

Profile of schools covered by this data

Percentages are of those whose Ofsted ratings are available.



Sources: DfE performance Data and Ofsted Inspection data, 2014.

 

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