New Ofsted data on sponsored academies highlights awkward question

New Ofsted data on sponsored academies highlights awkward questions– 03 June 2013

Post from Stephen Exley in the TES. The AAA does not accept that academies simply replace struggling schools. Many schools feel that they have to convert before they are forced.

“While sponsored academies are, by definition, schools that have replaced struggling predecessors, the government has been quick to portray them as the cure for all the UK’s educational ills.

Indeed, last month education secretary Michael Gove claimed that “amazing things have been, and are being, achieved by the academies movement”.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union has uncovered some statistics that, it says, could well disprove this.

New figures released by Ofsted in response to a Parliamentary Question show that, of the sponsored academy inspections that have taken place between 2008 and 2012, 12 per cent received an inadequate verdict – four times higher, ATL says, than the comparable figure for local authority maintained schools in the same period.

Furthermore, a further 39 per cent of sponsored academies were rated in the “requires improvement” (or its predecessor, “satisfactory”) category, implying that 51 per cent – over half – of these schools were not up to scratch. In comparison, the figure for maintained schools was just 27 per cent.

ATL says the data raises huge questions about the claim that converting schools into academies drives up standards. Martin Freedman, the union’s head of pay, conditions and pensions, said: “I know the government will say these schools are making lots of progress, but that’s what they are supposed to do. The fact that so many are inadequate compared with state schools is a real concern. It seems that what the government is saying about the success of academies is not true.”

Not surprisingly, the Department for Education has questioned ATL’s analysis. The union’s comparison, it insists, is flawed: while the figures take into account all inspections of sponsored academies in this period (including repeat inspections at struggling academies), the figure for maintained schools only looks at the latest inspections, a spokeswoman told TES.

This, the Department says, means that the bias towards lower performing academies that get inspected more frequently means the overall figures for academies have been skewed.

“Academy sponsors take over schools that often have a long history of underperformance which can take time to reverse,” the DfE said in a statement. “Even so, by the end of last year over half of secondary sponsored academies were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. Overall, results in sponsored academies are improving far faster than other state-funded schools. Their rate of improvement has exceeded that of other secondaries year-on-year for a decade.”

Looking purely at academies’ most recent inspections, a lower total of 8 per cent received an inadequate rating.

While this may not look as embarrassing as first thought, particularly bearing in mind the historical problems experienced by predecessor schools before they became academies, the gulf between the performance of sponsored academies and maintained schools is still pretty stark.

Perhaps no wonder, then, that the official figures took more than two months before they were finally released on the quiet.”

Stephen Exley

Don’t be afraid to tell the blog’s editor Ed Dorrell what you think


Swedish free-school operator JB Education forced to close. Lessons for England? – 31 May 2013

This will cause shivers in the Department for Education. One of Sweden’s largest free-school operators has been forced to close after its private equity group owner decided to withdraw its backing.

JB Education yesterday announced that it would be shutting down its primary and secondary operations after Axcel, its Danish investor, pulled out of the partnership owing to a drop in student numbers.

The news comes as a stark warning to England, which has partially based its own free-school model on the Swedish version.

Free schools in Sweden can be run for profit, which has led to most of the country’s major operators such as Kunskapsskolan and Internationella Engelska Skolan, as well as JB Education, being bought up by private equity firms.

Both Kunskapsskolan and Internationella Engelska Skolan have already moved into the English schools market, and it is widely believed that should the Conservatives win the next general election with an overall majority they could open the door for schools to be run for profit

Education secretary Michael Gove is said to be “open-minded” about the idea, and right-wing thinktanks have put the case for profit-making in schools.

According to Anders Hultin, who is chief executive of JB Education and who ran Kunskapsskolan’s operation in the UK, the company has found new owners for 19 out of 23 upper secondary schools; the remaining four will be closed.

Speaking to TT, a Scandinavian news agency, Mr Hultin said: “When we discovered the applicant figures for the next academic year looked as they did, I realised that the scenario we had been working toward was not sustainable. That changed the game plan.

“On the one hand, I am devastated that the company I have managed for a short time will not survive. It is extremely regrettable that it will affect the students. On the other hand, I am relieved that so many upper secondary schools will get a new start with new owners who can continue to develop them.”

But Ibrahim Baylan, an education spokesman for Sweden’s opposition Social Democrat party, said the closures should act as a warning.

“I hope that this situation, which becomes crystal clear in light of JB shutting down or selling schools, shows that the system of what in practice amounts to the free establishment of schools, is unsustainable,” he told TT.

Richard Vaughan

Don’t be afraid to tell the blog’s editor Ed Dorrell what you think

From The TES

If you liked this post please share it:
Follow Us:
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to New Ofsted data on sponsored academies highlights awkward question

  1. jane says:

    “While sponsored academies are, by definition, schools that have replaced struggling predecessors, the government has been quick to portray them as the cure for all the UK’s educational ills” – this is patently not true. Many schools which were converted were schools which were showing improved exam results, year on year. The academy sponsors often claimed credit for improvements which had been achieved before academisation.

    We have the strange contradiction that if, by definition, academies replaced struggling predecessors, and we are told that modelling state education on public schools, why is that 6 public schools were converted to academies under the New Labour academy project? Were they failing or is the statement wrong or was this just another way of tax payers subsidising the well to do chattering classes?

Comments are closed.