Truancy increasing twice as fast at academies

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The Independent Online

Truancy in Tony Blair's controversial academies increased twice as fast as the national average, and bad behaviour and bullying are continuing problems, a government-commissioned evaluation of the £5bn programme found.

Overall, academies are improving pupils' academic results more quickly than other schools, the study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found. In seven out of 11 academies, GCSE results improved last year - although in the rest performances were "actually deteriorating". Overall, academies boosted their results by an average of five points, against a national rise of three points.

Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, said the report was part of the "growing evidence" of academies' achievement, but there was "more to do".

But truancy at academies increased by 0.2 percentage points, compared to 0.1 percentage points across all English schools.

Behaviour was also a problem, with around a quarter of pupils in academies claiming to have been bullied. Around one fifth of pupils told researchers that behaviour had worsened since the academy opened. In some academies, this figure was 40 per cent.

Academies were also more likely to expel or suspend pupils than other schools. One academy had expelled 27 children, giving it one of the highest exclusion rates in the country.

The study also found that academies were taking a smaller share of economically disadvantaged students than the schools they replaced, prompting fears that improvement in results may be due to the changing social mix of their intake.