Education Policy Institute and the LSE publish analysis of the performance of post-2010 sponsored academies

The analysis, completed in partnership with the LSE, looks at the performance of 205 academies approved to be sponsored after May 2010 and which converted before 2014, by comparing them to a control group of 49 sponsored academies that opened after this period. The analysis can be found here:

Key findings

–  Schools tend to improve results a year before they become a sponsored academy:

  • Findings display an increase in performance in key stage 4 results of pupils in the year immediately before conversion to academy status, equivalent to 1.2 GCSE grades in one subject.
  • While we cannot confirm the direct cause of this improvement, possible explanations include: intensive focus on key stage 4 pupils in the year (or years) immediately prior to becoming an academy; the effects of poorly performing schools taking action to raise standards under pressure from Ofsted and other bodies; and a decision to try to avoid forced academisation by the DfE.

–  Results rise again once the school becomes a sponsored academy. However, this impact appears to taper away to zero in relation to the control group.

–  In the year following the conversion of a post-2010 sponsored academy, the average improvement in key stage 4 results rises again to 1.7 grades higher in one subject. However, the improvement dissipates over the following three years, eventually returning to levels previously seen before the school became an academy.

–  We cannot draw any firm conclusions yet as to whether this tapering is the result of the sponsored academies decline in performance or the control group improving.

–  Further work needs to be undertaken to clarify if this is the case. EPI and the LSE will be undertaking phase two of our research in the coming months.

How does this fit with our previous research?

‘Impact of pre-2010 sponsored academies and impact of post-2010 secondary converter academies’

This analysis found:

  • a positive impact for the early sponsored academies, with improvements that were equivalent to five grades across a pupil’s GCSE subjects;
  • a positive effect for converter academies that had previously been rated as outstanding – equivalent to about two grades across a pupil’s GCSE subjects;
  • however, no effect for converter academies previously rated as good or satisfactory. This is significant as such schools make up roughly two thirds of converters.

 ‘School performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities – 2015’

This Report used two measures of effectiveness – the first considers how well a school has improved over time and the second considers its overall performance, taking into account the starting point of its pupils.  It produced the following key findings and conclusions:

  • The lowest performing school group, on both measures and at both primary and secondary, is a MAT.
  • Academisation is not a panacea and does not automatically raise standards; with high levels of variability within MATs and LAs found.
  • 25 LAs are significantly above average at KS4 against our improvement measure, meaning a school that moves from one of these high performing LAs to a low performing MAT would risk significant decline in standards. The difference between the highest performing LA and the lowest performing large MAT is equivalent to just over 7 GCSE grades. Full academisation, especially when forced, could therefore risk damaging school outcomes.
  • At primary level (KS2) the Harris Federation is the highest performing school group in England. Redcar and Cleveland is the best performing LA and ranks 3rd in our primary league table. The Education Fellowship Trust is the lowest performing school group in England, with Poole the worst performing LA and second worst performing school group overall.
  • At secondary level (KS4) the Inspiration Trust is the best schools group in England, with Outwood Grange the best large academy group (10 schools or more); and Barnet the best LA, ranking second overall. The College Academies Trust is the lowest performing schools group in England – with Greenwood Academies Trust the worst large academy group. Nottingham and Knowsley are the worst performing LAs.
  • If the DfE were to use the Report’s measure as the basis for under-performance and hence intervention, 70 LAs would require intervention, as their improvement scores at either Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 are significantly below average. Similarly, using the same measure, 20 MATs would require intervention because their improvement scores at either Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 are significantly below average.