Academies and free schools - Education Contents

2  Evidence of effect of academy status on standards and closing the gap

Government policy

16. The DfE's long-term vision, as set by its board, is that of a "highly-educated society in which opportunity is more equal for children and young people, no matter what their background or family circumstances".[22] To achieve this, the Department has identified five "mutually reinforcing strategic aims":

·  raising standards of educational achievement;

·  closing the achievement gap between rich and poor;

·  reforming the schools system;

·  supporting all children and young people, particularly the disadvantaged; and

·  improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department.[23]

The Department considers that the academies programme is central in achieving these aims and has therefore been restructured to support it. The DfE's latest Annual Report states that "As part of that drive for improvement, the Department has substantially expanded its Academies programmes. These are the most resource-intensive of the Department's discretionary work, driven by Ministerial priorities."[24]

17. Reiterated statements by Ministers, most markedly the previous Secretary of State, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, attest to the strength of the belief within the DfE that academisation can and will lead to school improvement and to the narrowing of the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. It is therefore appropriate that the effectiveness of academy status should be measured by means of Ofsted ratings, general progress of all students and improved outcomes for disadvantaged students in particular. These different elements have often been conflated in analysis and even 'spun' by both supporters and detractors of the academies programme. It is important to recognise from the start that sponsored academies have usually replaced struggling schools; starting from a low base, they could be expected to improve at a faster rate than the national average. Likewise, converters largely represent those schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted and so could be expected to have higher than average attainment. Statistically, both could be expected to revert to the mean. It is therefore imperative that these different indicators of success are distinguished and addressed if analysis of impact is to be meaningful and robust.

18. Given the very different nature of sponsored and converter academies, it is also appropriate to examine the evidence for effectiveness separately for the two groups. Evidence for the latter is very sparse, because of the short time that they have been in operation in any number. Evidence for the former is often drawn from examination of the impact of the pre-2010, Labour Government sponsored academies programme, which differed from the Coalition programme in terms of scale and funding.[25]

Link between school autonomy, collaboration, accountability and attainment

19. The DfE stated that "autonomy and accountability are the two key pillars of academies reform" and that "International evidence shows that greater autonomy drives up educational standards, and is most effective when coupled with accountability".[26] A third factor is how far improvements spread throughout the system. The DfE cited research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which found that "At the country level, the greater the number of schools that have the responsibility to define and elaborate their own curricula and assessments, the better the performance of the whole system, even after accounting for national income".[27] The DfE also referred to research into the effectiveness of charter schools in the United States in closing the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers,[28] and further US work showing that "the improved performance of autonomous schools can improve the quality of schools in the neighbouring area".[29]

20. Andreas Schleicher, the Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, expressed his strong support for the principle of the value of autonomy. He told us: "What our data do show is that school systems which offer a greater deal of school autonomy tend to have higher performance, but they do not say anything about trends".[30] He also told us: "I view the trend towards academies as a very promising development in the UK, which used to have quite a prescriptive education system, if you look at this through international comparison".[31] He cited a number of caveats to the link between autonomy and raising standards, explaining that "We cannot say that increasing school autonomy will necessarily yield an increase in outcomes because autonomy always operates in a context".[32] He later added that, in creating a high-performing education system, "there are many aspects that are at least as important [as autonomy]: the level of standards, the level of people you get into the teaching system and the investment countries make in their teachers".[33] Far from criticising the extent of autonomy, Mr Schleicher argued that the UK's increased managerial autonomy should be extended to curriculum and teaching. He judged that "With regard to resource management […] there are a very few countries with such a high level of discretion in schools' capacities to manage their resources, make funding decisions and so on" as England but he was "not so sure" that English schools had high levels of autonomy with regard to "curriculum and instructional policies and practices".[34]

21. Andreas Schleicher stressed the importance of accountability and inspection in ensuring that autonomous schools achieve results. He told us: "the more autonomy you provide to schools, the more discretion schools have, the stronger the system you build around it to share good practice and knowledge and make sure you have effective ways to deal with underperformance".[35] The OECD rated England "very strongly on the accountability system", with "a good combination [of …] internal evaluation, external evaluation, inspection and the testing regimes".[36]

22. Mr Schleicher also told us that "the only area of decision-making that has a measurable impact on outcomes is the level of decision-making at the school".[37] One paradox of the academy programme is that for schools in chains it may well lead to less autonomy at the school level than in maintained schools. Decision-making within a chain is a matter for the trust and, as David Wolfe QC pointed out, is "subject to how much it decides to delegate down to a local governing body".[38]

Sponsored academies

Improvement in attainment

23. The DfE painted a very positive picture of the impact of academisation upon schools which had become sponsored academies, stating that:

    In 2013, in secondary sponsored academies, the percentage of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs rose by 1.8%. As academies mature, they continue to improve. Sponsored academies that have been open for three years have improved by 12% since opening (to 48.2%), compared to a 5% increase in maintained schools over the same period.[39]

24. The latest data from Ofsted shows that there has been a "positive and sustained impact on attainment" achieved by sponsor-led academies, although it also shows that "improvement in those that have been open the longest is beginning to slow as they reach national levels of attainment and results are declining in some individual sponsored academies" (see figure 1 below).[40] Overall, the level of attainment in sponsored academies (on average) remains below the national average for all schools.

25. The more mature sponsored academies (those open for more than four years) are schools established under the previous Labour Government programme. Inevitably, because of the timelag, the DfE's own analysis referred to academies open prior to 2010, rather than those opened as part of the post 2010 academies programme.[41] Ofsted agreed that this group of academies had improved attainment, albeit from a very low baseline. For schools established in the academic year 2007/08:

    In the first year of establishment, the performance of these schools was 11 percentage points below the national level for the key GCSE benchmark of 5 or more GCSE passes at A* to C grade, including English and mathematics. This was exceptionally poor and reflected the weak educational performance of the previous schools. Five years later, these schools had narrowed the gap by eight percentage points.[42]

26. An analysis of the early sponsored academies by Andrew Eyles and Professor Stephen Machin also found that student outcomes rose at a statistically significant rate, even after controlling for change in intake.[43] Within this average overall improvement, there was a lot of variation in the estimated effects, with some big improvers and some not improving.

27. Eyles and Machin stressed that the effects they detected should not be extrapolated to the Coalition academies.[44] In a 2012 article, Professor Machin expressed surprise that his work was "used extensively by supporters of the coalition's policy on academies", since "translating the evidence over from the old programme to the new, without appropriate reservations about whether the findings can be generalised, is, at the moment, a step too far."[45]

28. Witnesses, including Lucy Heller, CEO of ARK, considered that that it was too early to judge whether Coalition sponsored academies have been a success,[46] but some research is now beginning to emerge on the post-2010 schools. Taking the 2013 GCSE results, the NFER found that "progress between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 outcomes […] is higher after 2 years in sponsored academies compared to similar non-academy schools". However, when outcome was measured in GCSE points, excluding equivalent qualifications such as BTECs, the NFER concluded that "Pupil progress in sponsored academies compared to similar non-academies is not significantly different over time".[47] This reflects an established trend for sponsored academies to make greater than average use of equivalent qualifications.[48] The Government has been concerned at the extent to which equivalents are taken, and has significantly reduced the number of equivalent qualifications that count for the 2014 league tables.[49]

29. The DfE dismissed the NFER's research as "limited, particularly as it considers change over only a two year time period when we know from our own published analysis, that the longer sponsored academies are open, the better they do".[50]


30. Sponsor-led academies are often concentrated in disadvantaged areas: Ofsted told us that half of all such academies were located in the most disadvantaged communities compared to just over 10% of converters, with "well above the national average" proportions of students eligible for free school meals.[51] The DfE told us that "sponsored academies do better for the most deprived", on the basis that "In 2012, the proportion of FSM pupils gaining five or more good GCSEs (including English and mathematics) increased by 2.4% in sponsored academies, compared to 0.9% in similar LA schools".[52]

31. Not all witnesses agreed with the DfE's conclusions on the beneficial effect of sponsored academies on disadvantaged students. Several cited work by Henry Stewart of the Local Schools Network, who has compared data from schools with similar proportions of FSM students.[53] Based on the same 2012 GCSE results, Mr Stewart found that "Academies do better in the 2 least disadvantaged bands but worse in the others".[54] The Sutton Trust examined the impact on low income students of academy chains operating from at least September 2010 to July 2013 and found a more varied picture.[55] The Trust's research concluded that:

    On average, the improvement for disadvantaged pupils in 5A*CEM in sponsored schools in the analysis group was greater than the average for all mainstream schools between 2011 and 2013. However, there was enormous variation between chains, with only 16 out of 31 exceeding the figure for all mainstream schools in 2013.[56]

32. Looking at schools that converted between 2002 and 2007 and from 2008 to 2009 (again pre-Coalition academies), Machin, working with Dr Olmo Silva, examined the impact of sponsored academies on the attainment of pupils in the bottom tail of the achievement distribution.[57] Machin and Silva concluded that "the effects of academy conversion are insignificantly different from zero-and possibly negative for later conversions-in the bottom 10% and 20% of the ability distribution, suggesting no beneficial effects on tail students in academies".[58] They hypothesised that this was due to the influence of the accountability framework, which concentrates on final attainment rather than educational progression.[59] If this is the case, the introduction of the new Progress 8 measure may have a positive effect on the achievement of disadvantaged students in academies, as indeed it is designed to do in all schools.

33. Ofsted pointed out that sponsor-led schools have higher than average proportions of students from ethnic minority backgrounds and that those schools with high proportions of such students are "the most successful in terms of the end of Key Stage 4 attainment of disadvantaged students and reducing the size of the 'attainment gap'".[60] As our recent report on Underachievement in education by white working class children has shown, the challenge for these schools is to address the comparatively poor performance of all their disadvantaged students, including white British pupils.[61]


34. Ofsted ratings may be taken as a measure of the overall effectiveness of a school. Again, it is important to remember that sponsored academies are starting from a low base and it might take time for improvements to show in inspection results. According to Ofsted in December 2013 56% of sponsor-led academies were good or outstanding, compared to 78% of all schools. This proportion "varies widely across the country", with 85% of sponsor-led academies in London rated good or better compared to 33% in the East of England.[62] Of the 159 sponsor-led secondary academies inspected by Ofsted between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014, the national picture showed 7% were outstanding, 23% were good, 45% required improvement and 25% were inadequate.

35. There is some evidence that the change in status might lead to improved standards. Eyles and Machin found that for city academies, the trend amongst schools that had been judged to be inadequate prior to becoming an academy was generally positive, and many such schools moved out of the bottom Ofsted categories. On average, the pre-2010 sponsored academies moved up more in Ofsted inspection rankings than comparable schools.[63]


36. A key finding, whether examining attainment, improvement or closing the gap, is that there is significant variation between the performance of different chains. Ofsted's Annual Report on Schools for 2013/14 found that several MATs had succeeded in raising GCSE attainment above the national average in 2013, including the Harris Federation where attainment had risen to 73.3% (five GCSEs at A* to C) for all pupils and to 67.6% for children eligible for free schools meals.[64] The Sutton Trust also found that there were several high-performing chains. On the other hand, the Trust researchers pointed out that "most [chains] are not achieving distinctive outcomes compared to mainstream schools; and there are actually more that perform significantly worse, than there are chains that perform significantly better".[65] The Sutton Trust concluded that "The very poor results of some chains-both for pupils generally and for the disadvantaged pupils they were particularly envisaged to support-comprises a clear and urgent problem" and that there was "a pressing need for further monitoring and transparent provision of publicly available data in order to ensure accountability".[66]

37. It is worth noting that, notwithstanding this warning, the Sutton Trust found that sponsored academies in chains on average outperform solo sponsored academies.[67]

Converter academies

38. Converter academies have been operating during an even shorter timeframe which makes evidence on their effectiveness even more sparse. Dr Olmo Silva of the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics, told us that "we need at least to wait four or five years in order to be able to see something meaningful". This would allow a cohort of students to go through the full course of secondary education.[68] Other witnesses agreed.[69]


39. Converter academies are likely to have been previously high attaining schools, since they required a good or outstanding rating from Ofsted in order to convert. It is therefore not surprising that, according to the more recent DfE Academies Annual Report, covering reporting year 2012/13:

In 2013:

·  81% of pupils in primary converter academies achieved level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 76% in LA maintained schools;

·  25% of pupils in primary converter academies were above the expected standard at age 11 compared to 21% across all LA maintained schools;

·  In secondary converter academies, 68% of pupils achieved five or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics, compared to 59% in LA maintained mainstream schools.[70]

40. The issue for converter academies is therefore whether they can raise attainment still further. Several witnesses highlighted the potential for autonomous schools with affluent intakes to become "coasting" schools or to "go off the boil" and "lose their edge".[71] In looking at school performance in the 2013 GCSEs, the NFER found that while "Analysis of 2013 exam results appears to show more progress amongst converter academies than all non-academy schools […] A more robust longitudinal analysis shows no significant difference in attainment progress after two years between converter academies and similar non-academy schools, suggesting the school performance benefits are limited, at least in the short term."[72]


41. Ofsted told us that "Although the attainment of disadvantaged students is highest in converter academies [46% 5 GCSEs at A*-C in 2013, compared to 40% in sponsored academies and 42% in maintained schools], it is still well below that of students from more advantaged backgrounds".[73] The gap at the end of Key Stage 4 in 2013 was 27 percentage points in converters and 20 percentage points in sponsored academies.[74] There was regional variation again in these results, with London schools of all types cited as examples of where attainment had been raised for all children at the same time as the attainment gap had been narrowed significantly.[75]

42. The percentage of disadvantaged children in converter academies is also lower than in other types of schools: in 2013 22% of children in converter primaries and 20% in converter secondaries were eligible for free schools meals, compared to 51% in sponsored primary academies and 44% in sponsored secondary academies. The figures for local authority maintained schools were between the two, at 27% and 30% respectively.[76]


43. A higher proportion of converter academies than other types of schools are good or outstanding for overall effectiveness: according to Ofsted, "As of 31 August 2013, 88% of converter academies were good or better with over a third outstanding". Ofsted suggested that this could be because "these schools in the significant majority of cases are good or better when they convert".[77] Ofsted also pointed out that "there are variations in the overall effectiveness of converter academies across different regions", ranging from 94% good or better in the North West to 80% in Yorkshire and the Humber.[78]

44. The DfE suggested that academy conversion led to higher school quality for these schools:

    Converters do better than LA maintained schools against the new tougher Ofsted framework. Converter academies in both phases are more likely to retain their 'Outstanding' rating from Ofsted, with 33% of primaries, and 35% of secondary academies maintaining their rating, compared to 25% and 33% respectively, in maintained schools. Converter academies are also more likely to improve from 'Good' to 'Outstanding' than LA-maintained schools, with 27% of primary academies, and 16% of secondary academies, compared to just 12% of maintained primaries and 10% of secondaries improving to an 'outstanding' rating.[79]

45. Ofsted raised the "concern that some converter academies, albeit a minority, struggle to maintain their previously high performance".[80] In 2013/14 Ofsted found that 89 converter academies had declined since their previous inspection to requires improvement or inadequate. Of these 66 were stand-alone schools, underlining a general concern about these schools becoming isolated.[81] Ofsted has changed its inspection arrangements to give more frequent attention to those schools at risk of coasting or declining in their overall effectiveness".[82]

Raising standards across the local area

46. The aim of a self-improving school system is that as one school improves its own position, it will also raise standards across the local area, either through competition or through collaboration. Dr Silva told us that:

    In terms of the systemic improvements an academy might bring about, I had to say that I had very strong hopes to be able to detect a competition-of-choice effect in the UK education system when I started analysing these data a number of years ago. Unfortunately, I was not able to detect any benefit brought around by having more autonomy in the system, at least within the London area, which we analysed a number of years ago, with one exception: the schools that have slightly more autonomous governance tend to respond more to competition incentives.[83]

47. This points to competition being seen as a more significant driver than collaboration in system improvement under current structures. The Secretary of State cited an example from the head of a free school which supported this view:

    Since opening our school, the enhanced competition has resulted in standards in the local area rising. A head of another school has openly stated that the opening of our school made him re-evaluate his provision and raise attainment at GCSE by 25%. [84]

The OECD, however, has concluded that collaboration is the key to successful systems.[85]

Academy freedoms

48. Part of the autonomy of academies arises from the package of 'academy freedoms' which comes with the change in status. Academies receive funding direct from the DfE and so have more control over their budgets than state maintained schools. They are required to teach a broad and balanced curriculum including English, mathematics, science and religious studies, but otherwise have the freedom to develop their curriculum to suit their needs. Academies can also set their own term dates and their own school hours. Finally, they can set teacher pay and conditions which differ from those in maintained schools and can employ unqualified teachers.

49. Taken together, the freedoms available to academies create new opportunities for teachers in academies, especially those in chains. Andreas Schleicher suggested that "the potential of academies lies" in the ability to "offer [great] teachers a work organisation that is simply a lot more attractive to be in".[86] Dr Silva argued that chains "are particularly attractive for young people who are highly motivated and talented, partly because they promise within-chain careers".[87] Dame Sally Coates agreed that "in a network you can grow leaders; you can share teachers; you can grow expertise; there is good CPD [Continuing Professional Development]".[88] She considered that people saw working for ARK academies "as a charity; it is philanthropic; it is making a difference".[89]

50. Evidence available so far suggests that academies are making limited use of the freedoms available to them. A DfE report in July 2014, Do academies make use of their autonomy?, found that few of the 'headline' freedoms are being used by academies. Of the post 2010 academies, 14% had changed or planned to change the school day and 9% had changed or planned to change school terms. Sixteen percent had hired unqualified teachers but only 5% currently had on their staff unqualified teachers of whom none were working towards QTS. More than half of those who converted in 2010-12 have changed their curriculum, but that figure falls below half for those schools that have changed status after 2012.[90]

51. SSAT (formerly the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, now The Schools' Network) gave evidence that in 2012 "just 31 per cent of sampled academies had made changes to the curriculum following academisation".[91] Theodore Agnew suggested that the slow take-up of freedoms was only to be expected: "because it is so early in the programme, people are having to get used to these new freedoms".[92] He added: "There are little pin-pricks of activity happening across the system, and it is really important to remember that and not become frustrated just because there is not this wholesale gallop".[93]

52. Two thirds of the academies which have made changes reported to the DfE that the change was linked to improved attainment.[94] SSAT concurred that "Those schools that do use the freedoms they have gained are often those that perform most highly and are most successful in closing the gap. It is therefore imperative that academies are encouraged, where appropriate, to use their freedoms and do not feel constrained by accountability measures".[95] Ofsted told us: "All types of academies must utilise their autonomy to innovate and raise standards. From January 2014, inspectors will pay particular attention to the ways in which these schools are using their additional freedoms to improve outcomes for all types of students."[96] The DfE is also looking at how to increase the use of freedoms. Among its research priorities as issued in March 2014 are questions on "How do academies/chains use their new freedoms to encourage and unleash innovation?", "Is there a risk of particular models hampering innovation?" and "Are there any additional freedoms or accountability measures that would further drive improvement?".[97]

53. The vast majority of academy freedoms are also available to maintained schools, if they choose to exercise them, including performance-related pay and setting up weekend/after school clubs. Dr Silva argued that academies were not doing "anything radically different from what the best schools are doing in a normal system" but that "It is their autonomy with incentives that very often are set in place that allows them to do this, because these incentives bring around this motivation to do it".[98] He believed that in maintained schools, "this potential for making the school flourish and the pupils have a better experience often relies on individuals who are intrinsically motivated and not incentives that are built into the system".[99] Sir Daniel Moynihan agreed. After listing measures that Harris had put in place to assist disadvantaged children, he argued that "The local authorities could do any of this, there is no question, but the fact is, for the schools we have, for long periods of time they did not and would not".[100] Theodore Agnew argued that "the academy programme and the way it is structured allows innovation to happen more easily than in a traditional model".[101]

54. Anastasia de Waal told us that "I would like to see the autonomy that has been granted to academies granted to all schools", making clear that she was discussing "professionalism when it comes to teaching", rather changing pay scales or pay and conditions.[102] David Blunkett MP suggested that one freedom which should be given to all schools was over the curriculum: "there should be a light-touch National Curriculum that provides an entitlement for all children, whichever school they go to, whatever the status, and they can innovate and be really creative on the back of that, so we are not preventing: we are enabling".[103]

Academy status and improved performance

55. A number of witnesses argued against the existence of a causal link between academisation and improved performance, highlighting other factors which affect achievement. For example, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) set out to "Reinforce the point that it is the quality of teaching and leadership and the support that is in place for a school in terms of parental support, capital and human resources, etc.-that are the greater determinant of success than school type. We would warn strongly against seeing structural reforms as a panacea for school improvement, despite their seeming simplicity to track and manage from the centre; structural change is at best a means to an end and at worst a distraction."[104]

56. This view was echoed by the Church of England, which described the turnaround in fortunes of one of their academies, which had been underperforming and was now getting excellent results with a very deprived intake, before detailing the journey from failure to success for another church school which had not converted to academy status. The Church was keen to emphasise that, while academisation offered one route to school improvement, "it would be misleading to conclude that this is the only, or even the most effective way of securing such improvement."[105] Sir David Carter, Regional Schools Commissioner for the South-West, commented that, "Academies have some fantastic practice, but they do not have a monopoly on best practice."[106]

57. Christine Gilbert told us that the Academies Commission had "found no evidence at all that academisation did anything unless you did a number of things at the same time".[107] Henry Stewart suggested that "The data appears to indicate […] that it is not structures that determine school success but other factors (such as leadership, teacher development, high expectations)."[108] Others agreed strongly that the most important factor is the quality of teaching and leadership.[109]

58. We heard evidence that academy status has served, in some cases, to energise schools and headteachers. Dr Olmo Silva explained the potential benefits of new school structures:

    There is the potential in effect for becoming an academy, which is just like shedding some old habits that might have made the school crystallise into underperformance and left it wondering about what to do. Just by turning itself into an academy, it potentially frees some new spirit that seems to bring about change. It might simply be an enabling effect that enables some motivated leaders to use some of the freedoms that were already available.[110]

59. The Secretary of State concurred, telling us that:

    When I visit academies up and down the country, it is that sense of excitement about being able to really do what is right for the school, the pupils and the area. There is a huge sense of energy.[111]

60. Dame Sally Coates, Head of Burlington Danes Academy (part of the ARK chain), pointed to the importance of a high quality chain in challenging and supporting practice in schools:

    In a well-run chain of academies, intervention is much quicker. As soon as the data seems to show that progress is going down, there is an issue and intervention takes place […] Academies bring the scrutiny of data and the monitoring that comes from the chain. I did not do anything particularly I could not have done before, but the scrutiny and monitoring have made the difference.[112]

Conclusions and recommendations

61. The evidence indicates that there is a complex relationship between attainment, autonomy, collaboration and accountability. PISA research does not support a straightforward relationship between attainment and the academy model of autonomous schools but it suggests that, together with other factors (including notably strong accountability), autonomy can work in the interests of raising attainment. There is less evidence of the impact of autonomy on closing the gap. The OECD is also clear that decision-making must also be delegated to the appropriate level if school-leaders and teachers are to be able to apply their professional skills to gain the best results.

62. The Sutton Trust pointed out that "The level of complexity and fluidity [in the English school system] has made it notoriously difficult to analyse the impact of academies (and academy chains) on educational outcomes for young people".[113] The Trust also identified "a trend for proponents of the academies programme to highlight sponsored academies' faster-than-average improvement (when of course, this is to be expected given that so many sponsored academies start at a low base); whereas opponents cite their lower-than-average attainment (when again, this is to be expected given their low starting points and pupil demographic)."[114] The Trust cited the DfE as regularly using improvement as a measure for sponsors rather than attainment and attainment for converters rather than improvement.[115] This is exemplified by the evidence presented by the DfE to our inquiry which makes comparisons difficult and leads opponents to dispute the assumptions of success. It has led to criticism that the Government embarked upon an academisation programme in 2010 without the evidence to support the pace and scale of change.

63. Current evidence does not allow us to draw firm conclusions on whether academies are a positive force for change. According to the research that we have seen, it is too early to judge whether academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children. This is partly a matter of timing. We should be cautious about reading across from evidence about pre-2010 academies to other academies established since then. What can be said is that, however measured, the overall state of schools has improved during the course of the academisation programme. The competitive effect upon the maintained sector of the academy model may have incentivised local authorities to develop speedier and more effective intervention in their underperforming schools.

64. Some chains, such as Harris, have proved very effective at raising attainment, while others achieve worse outcomes than comparable mainstream schools. What is clear is that the picture is highly variable across the country and in the case of sponsored academies, across chains. More information is needed on individual groupings.

65. We recommend that the progress and results of each Multi Academy Trust (of more than three academies) be published on a chain by chain basis as well as by individual academy.

66. The majority of academy freedoms are available to all schools. One of the few that is not available—but equally one of the most widely used and important—is the freedom to vary the curriculum (whilst still being required to offer a broad and balanced curriculum to all pupils).

67. We recommend that curriculum freedoms be made available to all schools.

68. The limited use of their freedoms by academies suggests that more needs to be done to encourage them to innovate and explore the opportunities open to them. We note the inclusion of 'use of academy freedoms' in the Ofsted inspection framework, but consider that a box-ticking exercise could be misdirected.

69. We recommend that Ofsted look for evidence of effective innovation rather than name-checking use of specific freedoms.

22   DFE Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13, para 2.1 Back

23   Ibid, para 2.2 Back

24   Ibid, para 2.3 Back

25   See p22 of the report of the Academies Commission, Unleashing greatness (January 2013), for further details on policy changes and the different types of academies  Back

26   Department for Education (AFS0066) pp1, 2 Back

27   Department for Education (AFS0066) para 7, citing OECD (2013) - PISA 2012 results: What Makes Schools Successful? Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV). Back

28   Ibid, citing Dobbie W., and Fryer R. (2011) Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City. NBER Working Papers, No. 7632; Hoxby, C.M., Murarka, S., and Kang, J. (2009) How New York City's Charter Schools Affect Achievement, The New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project 2009) Back

29   Department for Education (AFS0066) para 10, citing Bettinger, E. (2005) The effect of Charter Schools on Charter Students and Public Schools, Economics of Education review, 24 133-147; 5 Hoxby, C.M. (2002) School Choice and School Productivity (or Could School Choice be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?) National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 8873; Booker, K., Gilpatric, S.M., Gronberg, T. and Jansen, D. (2008). The Effect of Charter Schools on Traditional Public Schools in Texas: Are Children who stay behind left behind? Journal of Economics 64, 123-145. Back

30   Q178 Back

31   Q180 Back

32   Q178 Back

33   Q198 Back

34   Q183 Back

35   Q188 Back

36   Q222 Back

37   Q189 Back

38   Q944 [David Wolfe QC].  Back

39   Department for Education (AFS0066), para 25, based on DfE analysis of 2013 performance tables data (KS4 provisional and KS2 revised) Back

40   Ofsted Annual Report on Schools 2013/14, p.31 Back

41   Ibid Back

42   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 8 Back

43   Eyles and Machin, The Introduction of Academy Schools to England's Education, June 2014

Ibid Back

44   Ibid Back

45 Back

46   Q405 Back

47   Analysis of academy school performance in GCSEs 2013: Final report, NFER (July 2014), p4  Back

48   DfE 2012, cited in Academies Commission, 2013; Hutchings, Francis & DeVries; Wrigley and Kalambuka, 2012  Back

49   DfE (2012b) press release, 30 January 2012 Back

50   DfE, supplementary evidence November 2014 - Department for Education (AFS0137) p2 Back

51   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 10 Back

52   Department for Education (AFS0066) para 30, based on DfE (2013): Attainment by pupils in academies 2012: supplementary analysis to the academies report 2011/12 Back

53   Eg. Socialist Educational Association (AFS0020); Save Downhills campaign (AFS0055); Q1069 [Kevin Courtney] Back

54   Local Schools Network (AFS0054) p1 Back

55   Chain effects: the impact of academy chains on low income students, Merryn Hutchings, Becky Francis and Robert De Vries, Sutton Trust (July 2014). 5A*CEM means gaining five GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and Maths, which is the standard performance measure for secondary schools. Back

56   Ibid, p.4. 5A*CEM means gaining 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and Maths (the standard performance measure for schools)  Back

57   School structure, school autonomy and the tail, Stephen Machin and Olmo Silva, Centre for Economic Performance Special Paper no. 39 (March 2013) Back

58   Ibid, p9 Back

59   Ibid, p12 Back

60   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 11 Back

61   Education Committee, First Report of Session 2014-15, Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children, HC 142 Back

62   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 6 Back

63   Machin and Eyles Back

64   Ofsted Annual Report for Schools 2013/14 Back

65   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014) Back

66   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014) Back

67   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014) Back

68   Q298 Back

69   Q298 [Henry Stewart, Dame Sally Coates, Gabriel Sahlgren] Back

70   Academies Annual Report: Academic year: 2012/2013, DfE (July 2014) Back

71   Q844 [David Blunkett]; Q403 [John Clarke] Back

72   Analysis of academy school performance in GCSEs 2013: Final report, NFER (July 2014), p4 Back

73   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 13 Back

74   Ibid, para 14 Back

75   Ibid, para 16 and 17 Back

76   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 10 Back

77   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 4-5 Back

78   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 4 Back

79   Department for Education (AFS0066) para 28 Back

80   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 5 Back

81   Ofsted, Annual Report of HMCI of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2013/14, HC841, Session 2014-15, p18, and Annual Report on Schools 2013/14, p6 Back

82   Ibid Back

83   Q312 [Dr Olmo Silva] Back

84   Q1198 Back

85   See, for example, Collaborative culture is key to success, Andreas Schleicher, Times Educational Supplement, 9 March 2013 Back

86   Q217 Back

87   Q302 [Dr Olmo Silva] Back

88   Q302 [Dame Sally Coates] Back

89   Ibid Back

90   DfE, Do academies make use of their autonomy? Research report (July 2014) Back

91   SSAT (AFS0067) para 7 Back

92   Q893 Back

93   Q893 Back

94   DfE, Do academies make use of their autonomy? Research report (July 2014) Back

95   SSAT (AFS0067) para 7 Back

96   Ofsted (AFS0088) para 20 Back

97   Academies: research priorities and questions, DfE (March 2014)  Back

98   Q322 [Olmo Silva] Back

99   Ibid Back

100   Q924 Back

101   Q808 Back

102   Q525 Back

103   Q895 Back

104   National Association of Head Teachers (AFS0091) para 6 Back

105   Church of England (AFS0080) para 1 Back

106   Q566 Back

107   Q366 [Christine Gilbert] Back

108   Local Schools Network (AFS0054) p4 Back

109   Q302 [Gabriel Sahlgren]; Q365 [Mike Cladingbowl and Sam Freedman]; Q299 and Q329 [Dame Sally Coates] Back

110   Q341 [Olmo Silva] Back

111   Q1167 Back

112   Q309 Back

113   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014), p11 Back

114   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014), pp11-12 Back

115   Hutchings, Francis & deVries (2014), p12 Back

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Prepared 27 January 2015