How well do Academies do?Posted: March 9, 2012
There has been quite a flurry of activity recently about how the performance of academies compared with that of other schools in 2011. The DfE has based its claims on the fact that results (5 A* to C including English and maths) rose by 5.7% whereas the increase for all schools was 3.1%. So, it claims, academies improved twice as fast as other schools.
Since then these claims have been comprehensively demolished first by Henry Stewart on the Local Schools Network blog and then by a report from the House of Commons Library. These analyses can be found at http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/02/2011-gcses-what-the-data-tells-us-about-academies-and-non-academies/
The basic point is that you have to compare like with like. Comparing academies which have low results in the past with schools that scored 70% or 80% is plainly silly. The reality is that when you compare academies with similar schools – whether by previous attainment or by free meals – you can find no advantage for academies. In fact if you look at GCSE only (ie stripping out the vocational qualifications that Mr Gove thinks so little of), you mostly find academies did worse.
These findings were reported in the Observer a couple of weeks ago. The DfE produced an embarrassingly bad attempt to refute the findings – for those with a taste for Govian obfuscation you can find this at:
Henry Stewart has taken this press release apart at:
One feature of particular interest might be the DfE claims for the performance of academy chains. Henry points out that these are the schools most heavily dependent on vocational qualifications.
“The Harris % for 5 ACEM falls by 24% after taking out vocational equivalents and the Ark figure falls by 21%. (For comparison, the figure for state schools as a whole falls by just 6%.)”
It seems unlikely that DfE policy will be shifted by actual evidence. We can no doubt look forward to many more ministerial statements asserting that black is white. The risk is, as Mark Twain memorably said “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Anyone with a concern for evidence based policy needs to make sure that truth catches up.