So What’s Wrong with Academisation? 10 Myths and Facts to Disprove Them

What’s Wrong with Academies?

The policy of the break up of our Local Education Authorities, pitching schools against one another in an ultra-competitive environment has nothing to do with learning, nothing to do with improving standards, and everything to do with privatisation of our schools and profits for the Academy chains. The result is seriously damaging the education of young people today.

Jeremy Corbyn wants to see Academies returned to Local Education Authorities.

Instead of inter-school competition, he wants to bring all schools “back into the local authority orbit”. He has discussed “rebuilding the family of education” and said he thinks local authorities could oversee and provide supplementary support resources for schools. He also suggested local authorities should be allowed to build new schools again. . “We need to be bolder about all children having an equal chance, proud of the idea of first-rate community comprehensive education and encourage a diverse mix of pupils in all our schools”. Corbyn also wants to set up a National Education Service – which would be modelled similar to the NHS. (Schoolsweek)

LEAs or local consortia should involve professional teachers and educational professionals  as well as parents in decision making. Co-operation rather than competition between schools allows sharing resources, skills and provision of centralised services such as SEN, Education Psychology, provision for sick children and CAMHS.

Labour’s Education minister Lucy Powell has announced at Conference her plans to bring back LEAs. “Schools must work together not compete. Local authorities will be able to ensure sufficient places and fair admissions, and have the ability to intervene in any school that is failing. I want to encourage collaboration in communities of schools and for all schools to work with their local communities to drive up standards.”

Academised schools should be returned to our local community – our family of schools , as Jeremy Corbyn has referred to. The following article  by Henry Stewart has been previously published on Local Schools Network, and is available for download in Word Form here. It is the result of extensive research, and clearly exposes the claims for justification of Academisation as untruths.

Please share widely, as it is important that these myths which the government are circulating in the media are debunked, so that parents , teachers and politicians can act in counteracting these policies, and protect the education of our children.  Schools are there to provide the education all our young people need. We must ensure that is the case.

Academies: Myths & Facts – Henry Stewart, Local Schools Network 

By Henry Stewart

Myth 1: Local authorities are no good at helping schools improve. That’s why “inadequate” schools must be converted to academies.

The facts: Of the 331 primary schools that were rated “Inadequate” at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only two remained “inadequate” by the time Ofsted called again. On average, this was less than 21 months later.

Of 59 secondary schools that were rated “Inadequate” at their previous inspection, and did not become academies, only four (7%) remained “inadequate” by the time Ofsted called again. On average, this was less than 15 months later.

There is no need for the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill. Local authorities are actually remarkably successful at helping “inadequate” maintained schools to improve.

More at: http://bit.ly/SponSlow

Myth 2: Sponsored academies are more likely to improve a school that is “inadequate”

This is the basis of the Education and Adoption Bill. Any school rated “inadequate” (or coasting) is to be issued immediately with an academy order. Both the governing body and the local authority will be legally bound to support the conversion.

a.  Sponsored academies are almost four times as likely to remain “inadequate” if secondary and twelve times as likely if primary. 

School Myth 2.jpeg

  • Of primary schools rated “inadequate”, just 0.6% remained “inadequate” at their next inspection (v 6.8% for sponsored academies)
  • Of secondary schools rated “inadequate”, just 7.6% remained “inadequate” at their next inspection (v 27.1% for sponsored academies)

This comparison is between sponsored academies that were “inadequate” at conversion, and have had one Ofsted inspection since, and all maintained schools.

More at: http://bit.ly/spon49000

b) For secondary sponsored academies that have had two Ofsted inspections since conversion, they are over twice as likely to stay “inadequate” and over twice as likely to become “inadequate” if they currently rated higher.      

2b Liklihood-to-remain-or-become

  • A secondary school is over twice as likely to stay “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (6.8% v 17.6%)
  • If a secondary school is rated “Requires Improvement”, it is over twice as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a Sponsored Academy (7.7% v 19.6%)
  • If a secondary school is rated “Good”, it is four times as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (4.4% v 19.6%)
  • If a secondary school is rated “Outstanding”, it is over twice as likely to become “Inadequate” if it is a sponsored academy (3.3% v 8%)

More at: http://bit.ly/InadSpAcad (Note: primaries not included as too few have had 2 inspections)

Myth 3: Forcing “inadequate” schools to become academies is the best route to less children remaining in “inadequate” schools

In fact, due to the facts above, the reverse is true. If we apply the data on the % that remain “inadequate” we can estimate the difference between all “inadequate” schools being in the maintained sector and them all being sponsored academies:

If all “inadequate” schools were of that type, how many children would remain in “inadequate” schools at the next inspection:

Primary Secondary
Maintained schools 505 14,432
Sponsored academies 6,736 57,348
Difference 6,231 42,916

The effect of sponsored academies and the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill can be estimated: 49,000 extra children will remain in “inadequate” schools.

While the number of primaries that are “inadequate” has stayed constant at 2%, the number of “inadequate” secondaries has gone from 3% to 6%, according to ofsted Data View Or as Ofsted 2014 report put it:

“Children in primary schools have a better chance than ever of attending an effective school. Eighty-two per cent of primary schools are now “good” or “outstanding”, which means that 190,000 more pupils are attending “good” or “outstanding” primary schools than last year. However, the picture is not as positive for secondary schools: only 71% are “good” or “outstanding”, a figure that is no better than last year. Some 170,000 pupils are now in “inadequate” secondary schools compared with 100,000 two years ago.” (Ofsted annual report 2014:http://bit.ly/Ofs2014, p8)

The difference? The vast majority of primary schools are still maintained, while the majority of secondaries are now academies.

More at: http://bit.ly/spon49000

Myth 4: Academies are responsible for 1 million more children being in “good” or “outstanding” schools

Nick Gibb: “there are 1,100 sponsored academies that started life as under-performing schools, which is a colossal achievement that has led directly to over 1 million [more] children being taught in “good” or “outstanding” schools.” (11/9/15)

The facts: There are over one million more children in schools rated “good” or “outstanding” but the majority (78%) of these are in primary schools, where there are few academies.

In total there are 69,000 pupils in sponsored academies that are rated “Good” or “Outstanding”, representing just 7% of the extra primary pupils that are in such schools. So 93%

More at: http://bit.ly/NoGibbNo

Myth 5: Sponsored secondary academies improve their GCSE results faster than non-academies

Government ministers frequently make claims that sponsored academies increase their GCSE results at a faster rate than other schools. However the comparison is always between sponsored academies and all maintained schools. As schools increase faster when they start from a lower base, and sponsored academies generally start from a lower base, they will always increase their results faster than all other schools.

The key question is whether a specific school will improve its GCSE results faster if it is a sponsored academy or a maintained school.

To find this out, we must compare sponsored academies to similar maintained schools. The graph below groups schools by their 2011 GCSE results and then compares the change in GCSE results over the three years to 2014.

In each band (20% to 40%, 40% to 60% and over 60%), maintained schools increase their GCSE results faster – or saw them fall less – than sponsored academies.

mtyth 5Sp-academies-2011-2014.jpeg

LSN’s comparisons of 2011, 2012 and 2013 GCSE data generally showed that sponsored academies improved their results no faster than maintained schools but did not show them performing worse. This changed in 2014 with the removal of most GCSE equivalents from the results, which sponsored academies relied heavily on.

Without those equivalents, it seems that sponsored academy secondaries perform, on average, clearly worse than similar maintained schools.

More at: http://bit.ly/SponSlow

Myth 6: Sponsored primary academies improve their KS2 results faster than non-academies

The same is true when the performance of sponsored primaries is compared to similar maintained schools. In this case I adopted a new approach (which I will use for secondaries this year) of grouping the schools into five equal sets, or quintiles, according to their 2012 KS2 results. (ie, each of the five sets has the same number of sponsored academies.)

In four of these quintiles the sponsored academies improved their results at a slower rate. Only in the already highest performing set did the sponsored academies perform better.

Note that the same pattern as for secondaries is clear, that the fastest improvement is in the groups of schools that previously had the lowest results. Far more of the maintained schools are in the higher sets and so, if sponsored academies are compared to all schools and not to similar schools, they will appear to improve faster.

myth 6

There have only been results for the last two years for most sponsored primary academies. The initial indication is that the smaller increase is a 1st year effect, probably due to the distraction of becoming an academy. Beyond the 1st year, the two types of schools appear to increase at similar rates.

More at: http://bit.ly/SponSlow

Myth 7: Academy chains are generally high performing and a route to success

A Department for Education report published in Spring 2015 compared the value added in the largest 20 academy chains with that of 100 local authorities.

  • Of the 20 chains, only 3 had a value added that was above the national average of 1000.

  • Even the two best performing chains (ARK and Harris) were outperformed by 8 local authorities.

  • ON the combined list of 120 LAs and academy chains, there are just 3 chains in the top 50 but 15 chains in the bottom 50.

While the government, and their supporters, like to talk of “high performing chains” there are only actually two academy chains that fit that description. The vast majority are producing results that are below average, by the DfE’s own analysis.

More at: http://bit.ly/DismalChains

Myth 8: Sponsored academies are particularly successful at helping disadvantaged students

The Sutton Trust report Chains Effects 2015 makes clear that there are serious problems with many of the academy chains: “far from providing a solution to disadvantage, a few chains may be exacerbating it”. – See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/07/are-academy-chains-harming-the-progress-of-disadvantaged-pupils/#sthash.fuBUKWi4.dpuf

The conclusions are stark: While there are some chains demonstrating “impressive outcomes”, “a larger group of low-performing chains are achieving results that are not improving and may be harming the prospects of their disadvantaged students”.

More at: http://bit.ly/AcadHarm

Myth 9: Sponsored academies lead to more pupils taking traditional subjects, like languages and humanities.

Students in sponsored academies are far less likely to achieve a history or geography GCSE. The graph below compares all sponsored academies to all maintained schools. But the same is true when comparing “underperforming” sponsored academies to similar maintained schools (both having 2012 GCSE benchmarks between 20% and 40%) or comparing those with the most disadvantaged intakes (only those with 40% or more on free school meals).

The same is true for languages. Students are less likely to take a language GCSE if they are in a sponsored academy – both overall, and when compared to similar schools.

It is not the case that students in lower achieving schools, that become academies, are being transformed by new opportunities to take core academic subjects. Students in these academies are significantly less likely to get a C or better in a language or a humanity GCSE.

More at: http://bit.ly/AcadHisGeo (analysis was in 2014 on 2013 GCSE results)

Myth 10: Independent research supports government claims for academy performance

You know that somebody is losing the argument when they fall back on the work done by Stephen Machin and colleagues at LSE. The most recent data used by Machin was for 2008, and so the analysis only reflects the performance of the early Labour academies. Machin himself has made clear that it is “hard to justify” the use of his research by the government for its very different academies. Indeed he called it a “step too far”.

In contrast independent bodies have generally disputed any claims of better academy performance:

  • The Sutton Trust (above) warned that low performing chains may be harming the performance of disadvantaged students.
  • The Conservative-chaired Education Select Committee report on Academies and Free Schools found no evidence of better academy performance. It stated “Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school“ and added that “the Government should stop exaggerating the success of academies”. More at http://bit.ly/PriAcad
  • NFER in 2014 concluded: “no significant improvement is seen in the rate of improvement of GCSE results for academy schools over and above the rate of improvement in all schools”.

Conclusion

None of the claims of government ministers for the better performance of sponsored academies stand up to scrutiny. In contrast what the data tends to reveal is that maintained schools are actually performing very well.

There is no basis or justification in the data for the forced academisation of the Education and Adoption Bill.

The key amendment is the one put by Labour at the committee reading, that only academy chains with a successful track record should be allowed to take on new “inadequate” or “coasting” schools. It should be hard to argue that struggling schools should only be taken over by those chains that are successful. But the Bill, because of the large number of schools set to be converted, means that many will be taken over by unsuccessful or overstretched chains.

Notes

Click through the links for details of the data that the analysis is based on, including where to download it.

Note 1: Local Schools Network has been publishing this analysis since January 2012. While the DfE has sometimes sought to use different interpretations, or data from different periods (often not in the public domain), it has never challenged any of the numerical analysis we have published.

Note 2: All of this data relates to sponsored academies. These were generally previously “underperforming” schools that were converted to academies with a sponsor. Converter academies are schools that were generally “Good” or “Outstanding” and chose to convert to become academies. The focus here is on sponsored academies is because that is the focus of the Education Bill. The key question addressed in this paper is whether a struggling school will improve more if it remains in the maintained sector or of it becomes an academy.

Contact Details Henry Stewart can be contacted on henry@happy.co.uk,or on Twitter:  @happyhenry 

References and Further Reading:

8 thoughts on “So What’s Wrong with Academisation? 10 Myths and Facts to Disprove Them

  1. Hi Pam, not going to dispute any of the above, but I thought I’d share my perspective as a school governor who’s seen the school transition from LEA control to being part of a MAT.

    1) Whilst some LEAs are excellent, many aren’t as good (in some areas). Essentially on the control/management question, my perspective is irrespective of the controlling authority, there will always be some good and some bad – that’s the nature of folk. Some Academy chains have been very effective at finding ways to improve schools and share learning (& reduce costs), no doubt others will have performed poorly. IE if we take out the ideology, there’s much to learn about running good schools via either route, and the mechanisms of bringing that into under-performing schools is clunky and inconsistent in both systems.
    2) Many academies have continued to subscribe to LEA SLAs (service level agreements) for all kinds of things, which has proved beneficial – there’s a tipping point to come with this as LEAs lose funding due to fewer kids, can this be maintained? If not, many academies will then be facing severe challenges on everything from selection to contract negotiation to boiler repairs.

    3) The policies of the govt have benefitted from the determination and talent of many teachers, principals, and administrators who have managed to pull off the transitions whilst improving the quality of teaching, and adapting to new curriculums & measurement systems! If the investment in these professions is stifled, then this may not continue.
    Some of the freedoms awarded to Academies have given great staff a fast-track to influencing results, and I may be wrong on this one, but perhaps their opportunities would have been more restricted under the LEA frameworks.

    Anyway, on principle, I believe that education needs to be locally democratically controlled, and I’m not happy that the academies land, buildings (our invested wealth) has been leased off, and feel it’s only a matter of time before this creates a big stir; but from a results, performance and management position, creating the right structures is crucially important, and a 2-tier system doesn’t help with this.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comments. Everyone can cite different experiences. Where there is competition if some succeed , by definition others will fail – that in itself is wrong. No child is more deserving than any other. The statistics prove there is no advantage from the Academisation process.

      Yes, I am sure there are cases of co-operation between local schools, but others ‘go it alone’ and have shareholders involved. I do have a problem were the focus is competition, rather than children’s needs. There are schools who do not “buy in”, and how accurate are inspections. Do they check on provision of children with ME where schools are not assessing centralised services, for example.
      Another issue is teacher’s pay, where schools do not follow national pay scales. This is further division, and can be used to ‘bribe’. Aside from the profiteering, I am saddened by the loss of co-operation.
      It may be down to individual head teachers, or even staff who fight for the children in their schools, but they shouldn’t need to do that. The job is tough enough as it is. It used to be a great job, with status, these days teachers are treated dreadfully,
      The point is none of this was or is necessary or desirable.

      Like

  2. Pingback: So What’s Wrong with Academy schools? 10 Myths and Facts to Disprove Them | Think Left | Vox Political

  3. Pingback: So What’s Wrong with Academisation? 10 Myths and Facts to Disprove Them | Think Left | kickingthecat

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