LGA commissioned study compares maintained schools with academies
May 6, 2016
New analysis, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), has compared the success of maintained schools to that of academies. The research, conducted by Angel Solutions, is based on inspection data published this year. It found that 86% of LA maintained schools are considered 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, compared to 82% of academies (52% of sponsored academies are 'good' or 'outstanding' and 88% of converter academies are 'good' or 'outstanding'). The study has been criticised for not comparing schools which are in similar contexts; sponsored academies were by and large failing maintained schools while converter academies were high performing maintained schools.
The report also highlighted how Ofsted figures work in favour of academies. When a 'good' or 'outstanding' maintained school converts to an academy, it retains its Ofsted grade. This means that 64% of 'outstanding' converter academies obtained that judgement as maintained schools. In contrast, when an 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' (RI) maintained school becomes a sponsored academy, Ofsted discard this judgement and do not include it in official figures.
When excluding the Ofsted grades that academies received before they converted, the number of 'good' or 'outstanding' academies falls dramatically. Using this comparison, 81% of maintained schools are judged 'good' or 'outstanding' compared to 73% of academies. The report did, however, acknowledge that due to the change in the Ofsted framework, it is difficult to compare schools that were inspected prior to 2012 with those inspected after 2012.
The report also measured the impact of conversion on a sponsored academies Ofsted grade. From a sample of 700 sponsored academies the data showed that 61% of sponsored academies have improved their Ofsted judgement since conversion. Breaking this down further, whereas 21% of 'good'/'outstanding' sponsored academies had declined, 95% of 'inadequate' and 55% of RI sponsored academies had improved. Overall, the report concluded that “sponsorship may have contributed toward improvement in the majority of the weakest schools in this sample, but did not benefit the majority of schools previously found to be 'good'. However, it is not clear whether sponsorship provides a more effective path to improvement than remaining LA maintained”. The report also highlighted how some of the leading multi-academy trusts (MATs) have had different levels of success in turning around failing schools.
Other data sources can of course show better results for academies than maintained schools. In essence, it just really goes to show that there is not one solution to school improvement. There are successful academies and successful maintained schools.