Laura Sharman 07 July 2016

Academisation not always best for poorest pupils finds research

One in five academy chains are performing below average for improving the education for disadvantaged pupils, new research has revealed.

The analysis by the Sutton Trust found eight out of 39 sponsored academy chains are performing ‘substantially’ below the national average for attainment and improvement for the poorest pupils.

However, a report also published today from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found the top performing multi-academy trusts did manage to deliver better outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

In these chains, the proportion of disadvantaged students achieving five good GCSEs is at least 12 percentage points higher than the average for disadvantaged students in all mainstream schools.

The Sutton Trust said there has been little change in the rankings of different chains in the past three years, with only a handful performing consistently significantly above the mainstream average for attainment.

Both organisations are calling for a shake-up of the academies programme, with local authorities being able to support struggling schools to improve.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: ‘Our analysis shows that, while there are some academies achieving great results, a similar proportion continue to struggle to improve the outcomes of their most disadvantaged students.

‘The Government and its new infrastructure of Regional Schools Commissioners needs to act radically and rapidly to ensure that academies achieve improved outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the reports show imposing structural changes on schools does not guarantee improvements in education.

Chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, cllr Roy Perry, said: ‘It is concerning that while the Government has announced that £600m is being cut from the Education Services Grant, the same amount is now available to finance academy conversions and support multi-academy trusts. The Education For All Bill has also indicated that some schools will still be forced to convert to academies, even if they are high-performing and have no desire to do so.

‘Rather than spending money on structure changes, the Government should urgently address more pressing issues such as the need for more school places and the growing teacher recruitment crisis, to make sure that all schools can provide the best possible education for every child.’

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