How have schools navigated the ‘self-improving school-led system’?
July 12, 2018
Last week has seen the publication of a major research study on the effect of education reforms on schools. The focus of this report is the way in which schools have interpreted and responded to the government’s ‘self-improving school-led system’ policy agenda since 2010, including academisation, reduction in local authorities’ role, and new school-to-school support models such as teaching school alliances. The authors conclude that the reforms have created a system of “coercive autonomy” with the accountability framework exerting a powerful influence on schools’ behaviour. The findings pick up on the clear ‘local status hierarchies’ between schools serving the same community, which do not always reflect the quality of education provided. Analysis of Ofsted data showed “a relationship” between inspection grades and the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals. Further, it found that school leaders often struggle with perverse ‘incentives’ to prioritise the interests of the school above those of individual children.
The research found that ‘local clusters’ of schools were the most common source of external support for schools – an important reminder that informal collaborations still play a vital role despite the emergence of new structures such as teaching school alliances and multi-academy trusts (MATs)
Accompanying statistical analysis found that, on average, there was no positive impact on the attainment and progress of pupils whose school is in a MAT compared to similar schools which are not in a MAT. However, pupils in smaller MATs (with two to three academies) performed better on average than pupils in similar schools while those in larger MATs did not do as well, particular in secondary schools.