William Eichler 24 December 2018

Academy chains perform ‘below average’ for disadvantaged pupils

Two-thirds of academy chains perform below average for disadvantaged pupils, according to new research.

The research, published by The Sutton Trust, analysed the performance of students entitled to the pupil premium in 2017, and over a five year period.

Poorer pupils in 12 out of 58 chains analysed performed above the national average on key measures of 2017 attainment for disadvantaged pupils.

However, in 38 of the 58 chains analysed, disadvantaged pupils performed below the national average for all state schools.

Sponsor-led academies have been promoted by the Government as a way to improve the educational achievement of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As the academies programme has developed, policymakers have increasingly seen multi-academy trusts (MATs) as the best way of working to improve the performance of struggling schools.

‘Two-thirds of academy chains perform below the national average for all state schools on key measures of attainment for disadvantaged young people,’ said Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust.

‘Improving their educational achievement was the original reason why academies were set up.  In this regard they have not succeeded.

‘We at the Sutton Trust are recommending the sharing of good practice of the best academy chains with the rest. More generally schools should make increased use of the body of what works evidence. 

‘Also, there should be strenuous efforts in struggling schools to attract and retain good teachers and those teachers in subjects where there are shortages.’

Professor Becky Francis, director of the UCL-Institute of Education and one of the authors of the new study, said: ‘Our five year analysis of sponsor academies’ provision for disadvantaged pupils shows that while a few chains are demonstrating transformational results for these pupils, more are struggling. 

‘We continue to find it perplexing that the Government has done so little to explore the methods of these successful chains and to distil learning to support others.

‘We continue to call for this, and to call for the Government to capitalise on the successes of a range of schooling organisations, whether MATs or local authorities, in order to do the best we can for all pupils.’

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