No significant improvements in pupil attainment associated with academy status for primary schools, latest research shows
28 June 2016
There is no compelling evidence that academy status results in an improvement in the performance of pupils in primary schools, according to a new report (1). This is one of the findings of research carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) for the Local Government Association (LGA) published today and being presented at a conference in Liverpool (2).
NFER researchers explored the association between academy status for primary and secondary schools and the attainment of pupils in 2015 Key Stage 2 (KS2) statutory assessment and GCSE exams. This is the first time NFER has compared and contrasted the results of academies in the primary sector.
In February 2016, 65% of secondary schools and 18% of primary schools were academies but the Government has announced their ambition for every school to become an academy by 2020. NFER’s research compared academies that have been open for between two and five years with a group of schools that were still local authority-maintained schools in 2015 and had similar characteristics at the time the schools became academies (3).
The key findings of the report are:
- The differences in KS2 performance between primary sponsored and converter academies(4) and groups of similar maintained schools are very small and not statistically significant. There appear to be no short-term benefits in terms of improved school performance associated with academy status for primary schools.
- The differences in school GCSE performance between secondary sponsored and converter academies and groups of similar maintained schools are small and many are not statistically significant. However, the proportion of pupils achieving 5 or more A*–C grades, including English and mathematics, is 2.7 percentage points higher in sponsored academies and 1.1 percentage points higher in converter academies, each compared to similar maintained schools.
- Academies of both phases and types are significantly more likely to be rated by Ofsted as outstanding compared to similar maintained schools, although this finding is less robust for converter academies because many have not been re-inspected since becoming an academy.
Commenting on the report, Lesley Duff, NFER’s Director of Research, said: “The Government retains an ambition for every school to become an academy despite taking a step back from using legislation to achieve this conversion by 2020. There are many reasons for maintained schools to convert to academy status but ultimately schools exist to educate and improve outcomes for all children and young people. As far as measures of attainment go, the benefits of academisation have yet to be demonstrated. This means it is crucial to continue evaluating the impact that structural changes are having on schools in order to inform future policy developments.”
Notes for editors
- Analysis of Academy School Performance in 2015 NFER
- Jack Worth, NFER Research Manager, will be presenting at the University of Salford’s conference Primary Schools: The Challenge of Academisation being held at Liverpool Hope University.
- The analysis compares average school performance using several attainment measures, differences according to the length of time the school has been an academy, and the average performance of disadvantaged pupils. It also compares the most recent Ofsted ratings of academies with those of similar maintained schools.
- Sponsored academy: generally an underperforming school which changes to academy status and is run by sponsors
Converter academy: generally a school deemed to be performing well that chooses to convert to academy status.
More information on academies can be found here: /research/academies/
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