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Academisation no 'magic bullet' for state schools

Education Policy Institute publishes data comparing local authority schools to academies

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 07, 2016 | People, policy, politics

The Education Policy Institute has published data which compares the performance of local authority schools with academies. The results largely show that while there are many academy trusts performing exceptionally, there are also several deemed to be ‘underperforming’, with minimal difference to performance in maintained schools. 

The results suggest that converting to academy status is not a ‘magic bullet’ for school improvement, but rather an opportunity to gain autonomy from local authorities and govern differently. However, school leaders’ union NAHT suggested that the money being spent on academy conversion would, therefore, be better spent elsewhere. 

Further research released last week by NFER showed that difference in KS2 performance between maintained and academy schools was small and not statistically significant.

NAHT maintains that schools should be able to convert if it is the right course of action for them, but that forcing schools to become academies undervalues the great work that maintained schools do as well as undermining the reputations of the many good and outstanding academies. 

Kim Johnson, NAHT’s President and Principal of Bradfields Academy in Kent said: “The academy programme is being pushed strongly by the DfE and RSCs but there is so much going on in good and outstanding schools that works without being an academy that this rush doesn’t seem to recognise.

“I am very concerned that the cost of conversion will draw money away from frontline classroom services at a time when austerity is already severely pushing our budgets to breaking point. 

“The government has highlighted something in the region [of] £600m to help schools pay for conversion, so it knows how expensive the process is. Just imagine what schools could do with that money if it was ploughed into targeted support for the schools that need it most. The academy agenda is not value for money.”

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