Academisation ‘does not automatically raise standards’, research finds

Academisation ‘does not automatically raise standards’ and many local authority run schools are outperforming academies, according to new research published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

The EPI’s report, entitled ‘School performance in multi-academy trusts and local authorities – 2015’, examined whether the government’s current push for academisation was raising standards and represents the first time that the performance of Multi Academy Trusts (MATS) and local authorities have been objectively compared.

The report found high levels of variability within MATs and local authorities. At primary, MATs made up 12 of the top 30 school groups, but nine of the worse 23 school groups were also MATs.

At secondary, The EPI found that six of the top 20 school groups were MATs, while 14 were local authorities, which it claims is proportionate to the overall numbers. MATs also made up nine of the 20 worst performing school groups, which it claims means the MATs make up a ‘disproportionate number of the lowest-performing school groups’.

The lowest performing school groups at both primary and secondary were found to be MATs, with the Education Fellowship Trust performing the worst for Key Stage 2 and the College Academies Trust performing the worst at Key Stage 4.

The EPI has warned that forced academisation could risk ‘damaging school outcomes’ and has advised the government to not pursue full academisation as a policy objective.

Commenting on the report, David Laws, chairman of EPI, said: “For too long the debate about ‘academisation’, the possible roles for local authorities in school improvement, and the impact of structural reform on our school system has been dominated by political ideologies, half-truths and hunches, rather than by evidence and careful analysis.

“Governments have seemed unwilling to have a key school reform rigorously tested against the evidence, and too often the critics have also wanted to make their case without reference to the emerging data on how structural change is impacting on attainment and value added.

“Now – for the very first time in our country – it is possible to compare objectively and simply the performance of academy groups and local authorities, in both the primary and secondary phases.”

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