'No evidence' academy status improves grades at good or satisfactory schools

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The Independent Online

New research has found "no evidence" that academy status leads to better grades for pupils at schools rated good or satisfactory.

The study, by the London School of Economics and the Education Policy Institute (EPI), found pupils' performance at schools already rated outstanding when they converted, totalling 390 institutions, saw a "statistically significant" rise in grades.

The research also found that Coalition-era academies had a lower impact on performance than the Labour-style sponsored academies, which were introduced in 2002 to help struggling schools.

It follows similar research from the EPI last week which found high levels of variability in standards among academy chains - also known as multi-academy trusts (MATs) and local authorities.

The analysis by the EPI, which will present its findings at a conference in central London on Tuesday, found that pupil attainment at the 203 sponsored academies created between 2002 and 2010 had seen a 30 per cent improvement - equivalent to achieving one GCSE grade higher across nearly five subjects.

But in the 4,470 new academies opened since May 2010 the improvement in grades was around 11 per cent - equivalent to one grade in nearly two subjects.

Researchers also said that improvement in schools rated good or satisfactory tended to improve in the years before conversion to an academy but that improvement was "not sustained or built upon".

Both studies come amid a continued push by the Government for schools to take on academy status, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan insisting that it is the best way to ensure that youngsters have access to a world-class education.

But Jon Andrews, EPI director for education data and statistics, said the study meant policy should focus on improving schools regardless of whether they are academies or not.

He said: "Post-2010, the positive impact for those schools previously rated outstanding is one better grade in two GCSE subjects but there is no evidence that there is any positive impact on schools that were previously rated good or satisfactory.

"The Government should not pursue full academisation as a policy objective and should focus on what it is that's driving high performance to ensure the standards of the lower performing schools are brought up to that of the very best."