Conclusions and recommendations |
Evidence of effect of academy status on standards
and closing the gap
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.
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. (Paragraph 63)
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.
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.
majority of academy freedoms are available to all schools. One
of the few that is not availablebut equally one of the
most widely used and importantis the freedom to vary the
curriculum (whilst still being required to offer a broad and balanced
curriculum to all pupils). (Paragraph 66)
recommend that curriculum freedoms be made available to all schools.
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.
recommend that Ofsted look for evidence of effective innovation
rather than name-checking use of specific freedoms.
Oversight and monitoring
evidence to our inquiry supports the need for a middle tier between
Whitehall and individual schools. The Regional Schools Commissioners
are intended to fill that gap but their role is still evolving.
There are differing views, including amongst postholders themselves,
as to how the functions of RSCs will develop. We recommend that
the Government clarify what that role is and how it will develop
in the near future.
RSC regions are too large as currently devised. We do not believe
that an increase in staff numbers, as envisaged by the Secretary
of State, would allow the RSC offices to be sufficiently in touch
with local information, given the number of schools potentially
involved. The number of Regional Schools Commissioners will need
to increase from the current eight if they are to perform an effective
oversight role for the academies in each region, and even more
so if they are to be extended to cover maintained schools as well.
recommend that the Government review and increase the number of
authorities cannot embrace their new role in education without
a clear and unambiguous codification of their role and responsibilities.
These should include the championing of the interests of local
children, families and employers in ensuring high quality, accessible
local provision, rather than championing the schools themselves.
local authorities adjust to their new role, the Department should
also adjust and ensure that local authorities can play a constructive
role in challenging all schools, including academies, to be effective.
If local authorities perceive themselves to be marginalised and
ignored, they will not fulfil their role in holding schools to
account. (Paragraph 102)
recommend that the DfE, as a matter of urgency, clarify the respective
roles of local authorities and RSCs in relation to academies.
voice of parents can be marginalised in some academies. We recommend
that the DfE work with academies and local authorities to ensure
parents know how they can make representations and that these
are meaningfully heard.
also recommend that the Education Funding Agency and the Regional
Schools Commissioners establish protocols so that parental complaints
are dealt with effectively and information from the process is
shared between the authorities.
witnesses have complained about the lack of transparency at the
EFA. We recommend that the DfE and EFA further enhance the transparency
and accountability of the monitoring process to ensure that academies
comply with the terms of their funding agreement.
confidence in the academy process is undermined by having the
EFA as both regulator and funder. We recommend that its regulatory
and funding roles be split and that the DfE carry out a review
about how that can best be achieved.
Collaboration and partnership in a school-led system
is essential in a self-improving school system in order to provide
challenge, support and economies of scale. Harnessing the effectiveness
of partnerships to raise school performance is particularly important
where schools are autonomous. More needs to be done to encourage
collaboration and ensure that it happens. We recommend that Ofsted
include evidence of collaboration in its inspection criteria and
that a school must demonstrate effective partnership with another
school in order to be judged 'outstanding'.
to the inquiry suggests that collaboration is much more likely
to occur and be effective if it is brokered by a third party,
such as a trust or local authority. Effective brokering of collaboration
between schools must be planned and considered, to ensure that
the partnership is advantageous to both parties, rather than cumbersome,
and real rather than cosmetic. (Paragraph 121)
have heard evidence that local authorities can be effective at
brokering school partnerships. We recommend that the Government
set out how it will incentivise the spread of this best practice,
including through Ofsted. The codification we have recommended
of the responsibilities of local authorities with regard to academies
should include their role in ensuring effective collaboration
between all schools.
recommend that the DfE strengthen its monitoring of the collaboration
of converter academies with other schools. We also recommend that
the Secretary of State seek to renegotiate all existing funding
agreements to introduce a requirement for collaboration for school
improvement purposes and that all future agreements include this
Sponsorship and regulation of academy chains
DfE has begun looking at what makes chains effective but more
needs to be done and the results of this work need to be better
disseminated. We recommend that the DfE build on its existing
analysis of the characteristics of academy chains by examining
best practice and the operation of effective chains, in order
to inform the active promotion of best practice across all Multi
Academy Trusts. (Paragraph
recommend that the DfE analyse and monitor the performance and
other data relating to academy chains, and publish the results
broken down by school and trust, in the interests of transparency
transparency is also needed regarding the process and criteria
by which sponsors are authorised and matched with schools. This
information should be clearly set out and be in the public domain.
The process of authorisation and approval has improved but could
still be sharpened. Greater transparency over DfE decision-making
will help in encouraging new sponsors to come forward and to understand
what will be required of them. We recommend that the Government
outline the process and criteria by which sponsors are authorised
and matched with schools.
of interests in trusts are a real issue, as shown by the cases
which have come to light so far, and they are magnified in the
public eye by the latent potential for the misuse, apparent or
actual, of public money. It is essential that academy trustees
act as trustees and on the Nolan principles of conduct in public
life. We acknowledge that the DfE has responded and strengthened
the system but we believe that the Department should go further.
We recommend that the DfE take further steps to strengthen the
regulations for governance in academy trusts and that the EFA
revise its guidance on at cost transactions to make expectations
of academies clearer.
evidence suggests that the oversight of chains needs to be improved
in several areas. We recommend that the accountability and monitoring
system for chains, and the criteria used to 'pause' their expansion,
be made more transparent and open. The DfE should publish the
process and criteria that will be used in reviewing and renewing
academy funding agreements.
should be learned from the US experience of charter schools with
regard to oversight arrangements. We recommend that the Government
reconsider the appropriate length of funding agreements, with
a view to reducing it to five years, and publish its assessment.
recommend that the DfE create a mechanism for schools to be able
to leave academy chains where the relationship is no longer appropriate.
also recommend that the DfE develop a failure regime for chains,
as in the Netherlands, and publish a protocol for dealing with
the failure of a large chain as well as how individual schools
will be treated when a chain indicates that it can no longer run
them. (Paragraph 161)
have listened carefully to the arguments put forward by the DfE
against inspections of chains by Ofsted but we remain unconvinced.
We believe that an Ofsted inspection judgement for each academy
chain would improve Multi Academy Trusts in the same way as it
has schools and local authorities. We also believe that, given
the failure of some high profile academy chains, the grading of
academy chains and corresponding report information would help
Regional Schools Commissioners monitor chain performance, and
would give parents important information about the academy chain
that stands behind their school. (Paragraph 162)
recommend that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools be given
the powers he has called for in respect of inspecting academy
chains. (Paragraph 163)
recommend that all academies and chains publish in their annual
accounts the salary and other remunerations of senior leaders
within bands. (Paragraph
Effective structures for primary schools
have sought but not found convincing evidence of the impact of
academy status on attainment in primary schools. We recommend
that the DfE commission, as a matter of urgency, research into
the relationship between academy status and outcomes at KS1 and
KS2 so that sponsors and RSCs can be clear which models and characteristics
are most strongly correlated with improved performance.
primary sector benefits most from collaborative structures, whether
these are facilitated by academy status or otherwise. We reiterate
the recommendation in our report on school partnerships and collaboration
that the additional funding available to schools through the Primary
Chains Grant be extended to primary schools forming maintained
federations, as well as Multi Academy Trusts. Such funding is
particularly important to encourage collaboration between small
schools in rural areas.
Creation of free schools
schools are a flagship policy of the Government, designed to allow
experimentation, but it appears that the policy has been altered
so that these schools are also intended to meet basic need for
places. The DfE needs to be clear and transparent about how the
competition for free school funding is decided and the relative
weight it gives to each of innovation, basic need, deprivation
and parental demand, and to publish the number and type of applications
it receives, from whom and the criteria it uses to make decisions
on applications. We also recommend that the Government examine
carefully any applications for free schools in areas where there
are surplus places and a large proportion of existing schools
which are good or outstanding.
schools are unlikely to be more than a small part of the strategic
plan to create more school places where they are most needed.
This does not remove the imperative to ensure that the body with
overall responsibility for place planning in an area is aware
of plans to establish new schools which will affect their calculations.
We recommend that the DfE ensure that local authorities are informed
of any proposal to open a free school in their area.
DfE publishes impact assessments on how it is predicted that free
schools will affect schools in their area but similar information
is not published to assess what has happened after the school
has been established. We recommend that the DfE collect and publish
statistical information on the intake of free schools, and monitor
the effect of newly created schools on the intake and attainment
of neighbouring schools.
agree with Ofsted that it is too early to draw conclusions on
the quality of education provided by free schools or their broader
system impact. (Paragraph 191)
Future schools landscape and implementation of education
have been major shifts in the structure of schools in England
over the last four years but it is salutary to remember that,
despite all the attention paid to academies and free schools,
of the 21,500 state-funded schools in England, 17,300 are maintained
schools and 4,200 are academies as at August 2014. It is not the
case that the system will inevitably achieve full academisation,
although for secondary schools that is already the dominant model
and the direction of travel is strongly indicated. We call on
the Government to spell out its vision for the future of schools
in England, including the structures and underpinning principles
that it envisages will be in place in five to ten years' time.
oversight and intervention systems for English state schools differ
according to whether they have academy or maintained status. Both
major political parties have suggested that all state schools
may be brought under a single regime in the future. Any future
government should consider whether the existing dual system is
beneficial in encouraging the development of more effective and
earlier challenge to and remedies for underperformance.
the new architecture to work most effectively not only must individual
academy performance be publicly transparent but academy chains
themselves must be as fully scrutinised as local authorities.
The DfE, in particular, needs to be far more open about the implementation
of the academies programme and how it assesses and monitors schools
and chains. This includes funding and regulation by the EFA. Rather
than seeing every request for information as an attack on the
policy, the DfE has much to gain from transparency and clarity
over its processes.
process of conversion to academy status has been exceptionally
fast by international standards. We recommend that the DfE review
the lessons of the wholescale conversion of the secondary sector
to inform any future expansion.