With the government in England making it seem that Academies are the answer to every educational question (apart from the ones to which the answer is ‘Free Schools’ or ‘It’s Labour’s fault) we were pleased to be passed this very thorough piece of investigative work by Henry Stewart working on behalf of the Local Schools Network who campaign for local accountability through local schools.

There seems to be a great deal of spin and dissimulation across the whole debate and we think Henry’s work seems rather clearer than what we are constantly being told by the DfE, who are becoming more of a propaganda agency for Gove’s plans with each day that passes. (‘Find out about the academies programme’, is the current headline on their home page, ‘which provides schools with greater freedoms to innovate and raise standards). 

If is worth pointing out that several of Independent Thinking’s Associates work in Academies so there is no vested interested here other than we believe passionately about teachers and school leaders being able to bring the best out of all its young people in an equitable and creative way that does far more than drill them to pass tests to make a school (and a government) look good in the league tables.

So, with quite a long post and thanks to Henry Stewart, we offer you a quick game of ‘True or False?’ so you can see past the spin and come to your own conclusions:

1)     “Academies’ GCSE results improved by nearly twice the level seen across all maintained schools in 2011” (DfE)

“Academies’ GCSE results improved by nearly twice the level seen across all maintained schools in 2011” (DfE): False

This result is only achieved by omitting academies who were previously independent or CTCs. It is the effect of comparing all non-academies with academies who generally had lower results in 2010. If you compare academies with non-academies with similar results, the difference disappears:

If we take all schools with 2010 results under 35% (the current floor target), we find that academies results grew from 29% in 2010 to 37% in 2011, an increase of 8%. That is very impressive and those schools should be congratulated on the improvement. But the comparison group of non-academies grew from 30% in 2010 to 38% in 2011, again a growth of 8%. (There were 58 academies and 161 non academies in this range.)

 

True

False

2)     State secondaries with low GCSE results are stuck there and rarely improve

State secondaries with low GCSE results are stuck there and rarely improve: False

The DfE data shows significant improvement in non-academies between 2008 and 2011, especially in the schools with high levels of disadvantaged students.

 

True

False

3)     Long established academies get better GCSE results than non academies

Long established academies get better GCSE results than non academies: False

Overall they do worse. Comparing to schools on similar levels of disadvantage, academies do worse in two of the three bands and only slightly better in the other band.

 

True

False

4)     Academies with high levels of disadvantaged students do better than similar non-academies

Academies with high levels of disadvantaged students do better than similar non-academies: False

Comparing academies with non-academies in bands, according to level of disadvantage (as measured by % of students on free school meals), finds non-academies out-performing academies in every band.

 

True

False

5)     Academies starting from a low base (in terms of GCSE results) improved faster than similar non-academies.

Academies starting from a low base (in terms of GCSE results) improved faster than similar non-academies: False

Taking figures for 2008-2011, comparing long-established academies and non-academies – where results were below 30% in 2008, both grew by 19%:

 

True

False

6)     “Academies inflate results with easy qualifications” (Telegraph)

“Academies inflate results with easy qualifications” (Telegraph): True

As the Telegraph reported (3rd Feb 2012), the benchmark GCSE results for non-academies fell by 6% once GCSE equivalents were removed, but by 12% for academies: http://tgr.ph/I2Iyjh

 

True

False

7)     Although individual academies have mixed results, the education chains perform strongly

Although individual academies have mixed results, the education chains perform strongly: False

Two chains (Ark and Harris) do outperform non-academies on headline results, but all chains are below the average for non-academies, once GCSE equivalents are stripped out.

 

True

False

8)     The 2011 GCSE results would cause 80% of academies to be below the new floor levels in 2015

The 2011 GCSE results would cause 80% of academies to be below the new floor levels in 2015: True

In 2011 only 20% of academies would have reached the 2015 floor target of 50% of students getting 5 GCSEs including English and Maths – once the new rules for equivalents are applied. (DfE data)

 

True

False

9)     More academies are outstanding than other state schools

More academies are outstanding than other state schools: Partly True

Of academies inspected last year, 18% were found to be outstanding, compared to just 15% of schools overall. But it is a carefully selected statistic. If we look at the % getting Good or outstanding, the situation is reversed: 53% of academies achieved it last year, compared to 57% of all state schools inspected that year (Ofsted annual report). Overall 70% of state schools were rated Good or Outstanding in their last inspection. (The figure for last year is lower because Good and Outstanding schools are inspected less often.)

 

True

False

10)  Academies exclude twice as many schools as other state secondaries

Academies exclude twice as many schools as other state secondaries: True

In 2009/10 (the latest year for which figures are available), secondary academies excluded 3.1 students out of every 1,000. The level for secondaries overall was 1.5.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/03/academies-exclude-twice-as-many-students/

 

True

False

11)  Funding levels for academies are publicly available for all to see. (Cameron to Education Select Committee)

Funding levels for academies are publicly available for all to see. (Cameron to Education Select Committee): False

The published data on school funding includes all income and expenditure figures for maintained schools. However this data is missing for academies

 

True

False

12)  The research on Charter schools in the USA (on which free schools are partly based) show they out-perform other schools

The research on Charter schools in the USA show they out-perform other schools: False

The most thorough piece of research on Charter schools was carried out by

·       17% of charter schools showed academic gains significantly better than other schools

·       46% showed no significant difference

·       37% showed academic gains significantly worse than other schools

Source: http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf

 

True

False

13)  Mossbourne is an Academy and performs exceptionally well. Therefore all academies will perform exceptionally well

Mossbourne is an Academy and performs exceptionally well. Therefore all academies will perform exceptionally well: False

Mossbourne’s results are remarkable, but it is false logic to assume this will mean other academies will do as well. While Mossbourne is in the top handful of schools for results (given either level of disadvantaged schools or high levels of prior low attainment), the other schools that perform best are all non-academies.

 

True

False

14)  The accounts for the education chains, like all other charities, are made publicly available by the Charities Commission

The accounts for the education chains, like all other charities, are made publicly available by the Charities Commission: False

A clause in the recent Education Bill made the education chains exempt charities. This means their accounts are no longer displayed on the Charities Commission web site.

 

True

False

15)  “All those schools that have taken on academy freedoms are engaged in working with or collaborating with other schools to help them to raise standards more broadly.” (Michael Gove)


“…all those schools that have taken on academy freedoms are engaged in working with or collaborating with other schools to help them to raise standards more broadly.” (Michael Gove): False

Only 3% of converter academies are helping weaker schools

Source, TES: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6187332#

 

True

False

Overall Conclusion:

There is virtually no evidence in the 2011 DfE data of academies performing better than non-academies. There are many measures on which they perform worse. Indeed what the data shows is remarkably strong performance by non-academies, especially those with disadvantaged intakes or previously low GCSE results. The hard work and dedication of the teachers and students in those schools deserves to be recognised and applauded.

 

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