7th July 2016

School performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities

The Report, ‘School performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities – 2015’ considers whether academisation raises standards and whether the Government’s current approach is working. It is the first comprehensive analysis of school performance in multi-academy trusts (MATs) and local authorities (LAs).


The analysis means for the first time it is possible to compare objectively and simply the performance of MATs and LAs, at both the primary and secondary level. The Report uses 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.

EPI’s report is published on the same day as analysis from the Sutton Trust which considers the performance of disadvantaged pupils in the 39 most-established MATs across the country. Both the EPI and the Sutton Trust are calling for government to ensure that both high performing MATs and high performing LAs are enabled to support struggling schools to improve.

The findings will be discussed at our Academies Conference on the 12th July. Further details and RSVP here: www.epi.org.uk/events/academies-15-years

The full report can be downloaded here, while the contextual data can be accessed here.

Key findings

The lowest performing school group, on both measures and at both primary and secondary, is a MAT:

  • Primary (Key Stage 2): The Education Fellowship Trust
  • Secondary (Key Stage 4): The College Academies Trust

Academisation does not automatically raise standards; we find high levels of variability within MATs and LAs:

  • At primary, MATs are over represented among both the best and worst performers. 12 of the top 30 school groups are MATS, while 9 of the worse 23 school groups are also MATs.
  • At secondary, 6 of the top 20 school groups are MATs and 14 are LAs, which is broadly proportionate to overall numbers. However, 9 of the 20 worst school groups are also MATs, meaning that, in secondary, MATs make up a disproportionate number of the lowest-performing school groups.

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 – the improvement it has made is equivalent to pupils making around one and a half terms more progress than average; 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 – pupils there make one term’s less progress than average; Poole is 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 – the improvement it has made is equivalent pupils achieving one grade higher in 4 GCSEs compared with the average. Outwood Grange is the best large academy group (10 schools or more); and Barnet is the best LA, ranking second overall.
  • The College Academies Trust is the lowest performing schools group in England – pupils achieve the equivalent of one grade lower in 6 GCSEs compared with the average; Greenwood Academies Trust is the worst large academy group. Nottingham and Knowsley are the worst performing LAs – pupils there achieve one grade lower in 5 GCSE subjects.

If the DfE were to use our measure as the basis for under-performance and hence intervention:

  • 70 LAs would require intervention because their improvement scores at either Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 are significantly below average. Together, these authorities have oversight of 9,400 schools.
  • 20 MATs would require intervention because their improvement scores at either Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 are significantly below average. Together, these MATs have oversight of 332 schools.

Policy Recommendations

  1. The Government should not pursue full academisation as a policy objective, instead the objective should be for pupils to be in a good school, regardless of whether that is a high performing MAT or LA.
  2. Government policy should be explicit about the intervention strategy it is pursuing for underperforming MATs, which should be consistent with intervention on LAs. The approach should not favour LAs or MATs, but rather target underperformance in any school.
  3. The Government should consider allowing high performing LAs to become Academy Trusts, or avoid entirely forced academisation of higher performing LAs.
  4. Resource and policy focus should be dedicated to understanding what drives high performance in MATS, developing new high quality Trusts and ensuring that those that are currently the lowest performing can learn from the best.


Commenting on the report launch the Chairman of EPI, the Rt Hon. David Laws, said:

For too long the debate about ‘academisation’, the possible roles for local authorities in school improvement, and the impact of structural reform on our school system has been dominated by political ideologies, half-truths and hunches, rather than by evidence and careful analysis.

 “Governments have seemed unwilling to have a key school reform rigorously tested against the evidence, and too often the critics have also wanted to make their case without reference to the emerging data on how structural change is impacting on attainment and value added.

 “Now – for the very first time in our country – it is possible to compare objectively and simply the performance of academy groups and local authorities, in both the primary and secondary phases.”


Commenting on the launch, Jon Andrews, the author of the Report, commented:

This new analysis highlights that variability between multi-academy trusts and between local authorities is much more relevant to raising standards than whether a school is maintained by a local authority or not.

 “The difference is stark. At secondary level, the top performing school groups have delivered improvements that are on average 5 GCSE grades higher for pupils across their subjects than the lowest-performing school groups.

 “Government policy should focus on tackling underperformance – whether that is within local authorities or within multi academy trusts – to ensure all pupils go to a good school”