SchoolDash study into the performance of academies compared to maintained schools
April 19, 2016
Two new blogs by SchoolDash, an independent website set up by a London-based academic, have analysed whether converting to academy status has had any impact on schools that have already been through the process. Focusing only on mainstream secondary schools, blog one looks at converter academies and blog two looks at sponsor led academies.
In blog one, SchoolDash matched the 792 converter academies from 2010/11 with similar maintained secondary schools, basing the matching criteria on pupil profile information (e.g. the number of pupils eligible for free school meals or that have special educational needs statements etc). The study did not match schools together based on outcomes (i.e. GCSE results) as the object of the study was to see if similar maintained schools or academies have historically performed better. The overall findings were that, of those schools that converted voluntarily (which were generally good or outstanding in the first place) “the shift to academy status doesn't seem to have made much difference to the academic performance of those schools, either positively or negatively”.
In blog two, the report matched 188 sponsor-led academies (which are generally underperforming or failing) with similar LA maintained schools also based on pupil profile information. The study concluded that, for sponsor led schools, “academy conversion does appear to result in improved performance, at least on average”. This is because, since 2010/12, the “amount of improvement shown by these schools is always better than that of similar LA schools and often better than that of all other schools … whether for overall GCSE performance or for progress in English or Maths”.
The blogs look purely at the end result (i.e. did performance improve) and not at all at the reason for improvement – i.e. was improvement only achieved because a school was converted to academy status. It does not look at whether other factors (e.g. leadership/quality of teaching) were more important. SchoolDash’s conclusion is that while this does not lead to a conclusion that academy status is a panacea for school improvement, conversion would not necessarily do any harm to pupil outcomes.
NGA has always been clear that where a school has seriously underperformed the governing body and school leadership should be subject to intervention and that the right solution for the school may be for it to be placed in a multi-academy trust which has a strong track record of school improvement. Where a school is good or outstanding, we remain of the view that the choice about whether to become an academy should rest with the governing body, after consultation with all the school’s stakeholders. There is still no clear evidence that conversion to academy status is a guarantor of high-performance.