The Academies and Education Bill will not help Britain’s schools
Today is the second reading of Nicky Morgan's Education and Adoption Bill. The main purpose is to speed up the conversion to academy status of "inadequate" and "coasting" schools. It will force local authorities and governing bodies to implement an academy order, whether or not they feel it is in the best interest of the children.
And the evidence increasingly suggests it is not in the best interest of those children. The education select committee, chaired by Graham Stuart of the Conservatives, carried out a thorough review of academies and free schools and found no such evidence. “Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school.”
Announcing the bill, the Secretary of State claimed to have "education experts who know exactly what they have to do to make a failing school outstanding." I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to ask how many schools rated "Inadequate" by Ofsted have been converted and how many of these have since become Outstanding. I await the response with interest.
A study of the current Ofsted listing of the most recent inspections for all secondary schools suggests she is unlikely to find many. For secondaries the number of schools going from Inadequate last time to Outstanding this time is precisely zero. For primaries there are eight schools listed as making that remarkable transition but none are academies. All are local authority or voluntary aided schools ("maintained schools").
The Ofsted list, which shows the current and previous inspection, shows that a school is far more likely to improve its Ofsted rating if it is not a sponsored academy. With academies that have had two Ofsted inspections since conversion (as the report does not list a school's rating pre-conversion) we find:
For schools previously rated as inadequate, sponsored academies are twice as likely (18% v 9%) to stay inadequate as maintained schools. Non-academies are over three times more likely (27% v 6%) to move from Inadequate to Good or Outstanding than sponsored academies.
For schools previously rated "Requires Improvement" they are more than twice as likely (20% v 8%) to fall to Inadequate if they are a Sponsored academy.
For schools previously rated Good, they are almost four times as likely (19% v 5%) to fall to Inadequate if they are Sponsored academies. At the same time they are more than three times as likely to become Outstanding from Good (16% v 5%) if they are a maintained school as opposed to a Sponsored academy.
These dramatic differences are only true of sponsored academies, generally schools that were "underperforming" and sponsored as an academy by another school or by an academy chain. "Converter academies", where a school is generally Good or Outstanding and chooses to convert, perform as well as maintained schools.
This analysis appears to show that conversion of a school that is rated Inadequate is likely to slow its improvement. Indeed, rather than helping it, becoming a sponsored academy is more likely to lead to a school falling back to being Inadequate and less likely to become Good or Outstanding.
There is no data to back up the Secretary of State's claims. The Bill is very clearly based on ideology not evidence. As the Education Select committee also stated, “the government should stop exaggerating the success of academies”. It is advice that Nicky Morgan would do well to take.