Academy status fails to raise standards in primary schools, new study finds

Pupils in primary academies do no better in Key Stage 2 (KS2) tests than those at comparable schools, a new study has found. 
 
Although primary schools that converted to academies gained extra income, they spent little of it on frontline services such as extra teachers or learning resources. 
 
Until recently the government planned to make all schools into academies by 2022. Ministers have now reversed that policy but the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, still hopes all schools will convert voluntarily and sees academisation as a key tool for raising standards. 
 
Since 2010 more than 3,400 primary schools in England – around 20 per cent of the total – have converted to academy status. The Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics used data from the National Pupil Database – a census of all pupils at state schools in England – to examine the test performance of 270 primaries which became academies between September 2010 and April 2012. They compared test scores, in the academic years 2006/07 to 2013/14, of age 11 pupils in these schools with a control group of pupils in schools which converted in the 2014/15 or 2015/16 academic years. 
 
The results showed: 
 
  • Pupils who were enrolled in a school prior to it becoming an academy did no better in their KS2 tests than those sitting the same exams at comparable schools, irrespective of the Ofsted grade of the school before it converted. 
  • The lack of performance effects occurred even though the primary schools made changes on becoming academies. A recent survey carried out by the Department for Education found  almost half changed their curriculum and performance management systems for teachers.  
  • Schools gained extra income upon conversion to spend on services previously provided by the local educational authority, but little of it was spent on educational improvements such as extra teachers or learning resources.  
     
Andrew Eyles, one of the report’s authors, said: “The results cast doubt on whether further expansion of the academies programme will be beneficial to English education. Given that the majority of secondary schools now have academy status, a push towards full ‘academisation’ will require the conversion of large numbers of primary schools. The evidence suggests primary schools have been unable to harness their freedoms as effectively as the disadvantaged secondary schools that thrived under the early sponsored academies programme.” 
 
Academy schools were introduced with private sector sponsors by Tony Blair’s Labour government to raise standards in struggling secondary schools. The coalition government elected in 2010 announced an ambitious expansion of the programme: outstanding schools were given the chance to convert without a sponsor, and primary schools were also encouraged to gain academy status. By October 2016, 20 per cent of primary schools and 60 per cent of secondary schools had gained academy status. 
 
Research carried out by the Centre for Economic Performance found the early sponsored academies delivered impressive improvements in both short and medium term outcomes. But while these early academies were disadvantaged, the bulk of the expansion has come from secondary schools who were above the median in terms of test score performance prior to conversion. 
 
For further information and comment please contact: 
 
CEP contact – Andrew Eyles – 07966069755
EMC contact – Fran Abrams – Office: 020 7862 8022 Mobile: 07939 262001

Education Media Centre is a registered charity No. 1153567

All worldwide rights reserved for all content on this site.
Copyright © Education Media Centre 2013

learnedly broadcast by