Education Bill – academies – “real dangers & no clear benefits” – experts comment

Up to 1,000 schools in England, including all those rated inadequate by Ofsted, will be turned into academies, under new laws being put before Parliament today.

The Education and Adoption Bill will also scrap the requirement for academy sponsors to consult locally on whether they should take over schools.

The aim is to “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes”, said Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Comment from Professor Stephen Gorard, Durham University:

“Converter academies tend to be schools that already had high raw-score exam results, and conversion to being an academy did not improve their results. Sponsored academies are more often replacements for schools that had previously been struggling, in urban or coastal areas, with high levels of poverty among pupil families.

The new academies then tend to take a lower proportion of pupils from poorer families, and this can see their high raw-score exam results rise. Not because these schools are intrinsically better, but because they no longer take in so many struggling pupils. These struggling pupils go elsewhere, and no one really gains.

The problem lies in the imbalance between school intakes. Areas with high numbers of academies have more polarised intakes between schools – just like areas with grammar schools and some faith schools.

Therefore, the system as a whole does not improve in terms of exam results, and the academies themselves contribute to the clustering of poor children in specific schools. This clustering of disadvantage is known to lower aspirations and life chances. The proposed policy has real dangers and no clear benefits.”

The research Professor Gorard refers to is here: Gorard, S. (2015) ‘The complex determinants of school intake characteristics,’  England 1989 to 2014, Cambridge Journal of Education.

Comment from Professor Becky Francis, Professor of Education and Social Justice, King’s College London:

“The DfE’s own analysis, published just before the election, shows a mixed picture in comparing sponsor chains with Local Authorities. To suggest that academy sponsorship is a silver bullet in its own right clearly belies the evidence. The DfE needs to adopt a more measured approach and to undertake further, robust investigation of what supports the success of the most effective sponsor chains and Local Authorities.”

The research Professor Francis refers to is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-in-academy-chains-and-las-performance-measures

 

 

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