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Academic standards continue to rise under academy programme

Provisional school-level results published to help parents make secondary school choices

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 27, 2015 | People, policy, politics

Standards continue to rise under the academies programme, which is improving the education of thousands of pupils across the country, Provisional GCSE results show. The results show converter academies are performing 7.2 percentage points above the national average, with 63.3% of pupils achieving the headline measure of over five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths. 

Alongside this, figures show recently-opened sponsored academies are matching or bettering their performance year-on-year, in spite of the significant challenges of transforming underperforming schools.

Increases over the first few years of performance for sponsored academies demonstrate the rapid improvement, which can be achieved when underperforming schools are taken over by strong sponsors.

For the first time, converter academies make up the single biggest school type of secondary school, representing more than 40% of schools with results out today.

So what do the results mean? Commenting on the publication, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “We welcome these results as a testament to the hard work of pupils, teachers and school leaders in the face of constant change.

'However, we are dubious about some of the conclusions drawn by the government. We would expect converter academies to outperform the average because they were, by and large, high performing schools before conversion. We would expect sponsored academies to improve more quickly than average because schools with lower results have the space to improve more quickly than schools at the top of the spectrum. Without a proper comparison of like for like - converter academies against high performing maintained schools, and sponsored academies against turnaround maintained schools - these conclusions risk distorting practice and decision making. In reality, as the Chief Inspector of schools has also said today, the type of school matters far less than what is going on inside and there is good practice in both academies and maintained schools.

'It is also wrong to suggest that stability in average results mean that the government's reforms have bedded in. The new 'comparable outcomes' methodology holds national exam results artificially stable while individual schools experience massive swings. More importantly, schools are only at the start of turbulent changes to exams. Every single year of students currently at secondary school will sit a different format of exams when they reach sixteen: the biggest changes are still to come at a time of increasing austerity and growing recruitment challenges.

'The government should also do more to celebrate the advantages and opportunities of schools working together. NAHT is undertaking research into groups of schools, as we know that when schools join together in trusts, their appetite and capacity for autonomy will grow rapidly.”

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