01 July 2015
The Local Government Association commissioned NFER to investigate how performance in national GCSE examinations in academy secondary schools compares to performance in similar local authority maintained schools, to attempt to find out whether performance was better than it might have been otherwise.
This report presents comparisons between sponsored and converter academies and groups of similar maintained schools, which is a more robust method for analysing the association between academy status and GCSE outcomes than comparing levels of school performance and of comparing trends. The analysis shows that the amount of attainment progress made by pupils in sponsored and converter academies is not greater than in maintained schools with similar characteristics. In almost all analyses the difference in average GCSE outcomes is small and not statistically significant.
- The differences in overall school performance between sponsored academies that have been open for between 2 and 4 years and a group of similar maintained schools are generally small and mostly not statistically significant.
- There was no significant difference in overall school performance between converter academies and similar maintained schools on any measure. It is still too early to judge the full impact of converter academy status on school performance because almost all converter academies have been open for three years or less, but this analysis shows that there are no short-term benefits in improved school performance associated with converter academy status.
- A comparison with 2013 school performance data suggests that changes in the way school league tables were calculated in 2014 have differentially affected the GCSE results of sponsored academies, because of the differential use of equivalent qualifications in sponsored academies compared to similar maintained schools. There is also some tentative evidence of an upward trend in the performance of sponsored academies compared to similar maintained schools the longer they are open.