Teachers and parents at Small Heath school are continuing their campaign. They call on the school leadership and management, and the local authority, to drop the threat of forced academisation, lift the suspension of the NUT rep, and work together with staff and parents to get the school out of Special Measures and back on track.
The next public meeting of the Parents’ Campaign is on Thursday 28th January 5-7pm, at the Bia Lounge, Golden Hillock Rd.
In this article we report on some of the most recent claims for and arguments against academies.
The government’s whole case for academies rests on one claim – they are more effective at raising standards than local authority schools. So the only way to improve schools which have failed an Ofsted inspection is to force it to become an Academy and hand it over to be run by an existing Academy.
What is the evidence? Do sponsored academies do better?
Each time the government has dodged the question. They answer by comparing sponsored academies with all schools, not like with like. To test whether sponsored academies are more effective, the issue is not whether they improve results more than all schools but whether they do better than maintained schools starting from a similar level. That is the question that the government has consistently refused to answer.
But now we have an answer, provided by Ofsted. It comes after Lord Hunt of King’s Heath (a Labour life peer) asked a question in the House of Lords on 10 December. (1)
Written Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the performance of sponsored academies compares to that of maintained schools when grouped by prior results at achieving five A*-C grade GCSEs, including English and Maths
Ofsted replied with the data on the latest inspections for schools previously rated Inadequate.
How many remained “inadequate” at their next inspection? Of those that became sponsored academies 12% (1 in 8), compared to 2% (1 in 50) of those that remained in the local authority maintained sector.
In other words a school is six times more likely to remain inadequate if it becomes a sponsored academy than if it stays with the Local Authority.
Lord Hunt commented “There is a general assumption, in the Government and the media, that becoming a sponsored academy is the only way to improve a school. However this data, from Ofsted, suggest the opposite. A school is far more likely to improve its Ofsted status if it remains in the maintained sector.”
How many remained either “inadequate” or moved up to “Requires Improvement” at their next inspection? 53% of the sponsored academies, compared to 38% of maintained schools.
How many became “Good” or “Outstanding”? Of schools that stayed in the local authority maintained sector, 62% compared to 47% that became sponsored academies.
The one area in which sponsored academies do better is that 6% become “Outstanding” compared to 2% of maintained schools. The numbers are small, but it backs up previous data indicating a small number of academy chains (also known as Multi Academy Trusts) do well, but most underperform compared to the maintained sector.
This is Lord Hunt’s conclusion:
“The data is clear, at primary and secondary level. There can now be no doubt that, on average, conversion to become a sponsored academy slows the improvement of a struggling school.”
2015 GCSE results show Local Authority schools improve faster than sponsored academies:
For the second year running, there is a clear difference: Local Authority schools, on average, have improved at a faster rate than similar sponsored academies.
For the lowest quintile, those with 33% or less achieving the GCSE benchmark in 2014, the average increase for sponsored academies was 4.7%, compared to 7.3% for maintained schools. Indeed in all five groups, maintained schools saw their results rise at a faster rate, or fall at a slower rate, than similar sponsored academies. (2)
The government has just admitted that academies can fail
David Cameron has just made a U turn on the Education and Adoption Bill. It was suddenly announced that after all the Bill will provide for intervention in academies that fail an Ofsted inspection or are judged to be ‘coasting’. (3). The announcement reads:
“I propose to amend the Bill so that when an academy or free school’s performance meets one of two triggers in legislation – an inadequate Ofsted judgement or performance that falls within the coasting definition – then their funding agreement will be read as having the latest provisions around failing and coasting schools.”
The government is admitting that academies and free schools can under-achieve – they’re not always the magic bullet that automatically brings about improvement.
In fact, the DfE press release states that the government has had to change the sponsor of 118 sponsored academies. This represents about 10% of the academies that have been open long enough to reach this stage, which is rather a high failure rate for a policy whose success the Prime Minister describes as having been “extraordinary”.
More unqualified teachers in academies than local authority schools
Academies already employ more unqualified teachers than Local Authority schools: 5.8% of their teachers as against 3.7%. One new Birmingham academy, Rockwood, which used to be Park View, has just applied for permission to change its funding agreement employ unqualified teachers. (4) It is run by the Core Education Trust. Could they be a candidate to take over Small Heath?
The number of unqualified teachers is likely to increase as a result of the unprecedented cuts that schools face over the next few years, because they are cheaper than qualified staff. It seems likely that they will increase much more in academies because they are more willing to use unqualified staff.
In the Autumn Statement, George Osborne announced that education funding would be frozen despite a significant increase in student numbers. This will mean a cut of 8% over the next 5 years.
In addition, he announced the introduction of a national funding formula from 2017. This will be very damaging for Birmingham and other cities because at present they are better funded than rural areas. The national funding formula will take money away from them and hand it over to the county – and mainly Tory – local authorities. Here are the figures for Birmingham (5):
- Current total school budget £870m
- If the national formula was applied now this would be cut to £810m
- Adjusted for inflation till 2019/20 would be a further reduction to £749m
- Total cut by 2019/20: £121m
This is what it means per pupil:
- Funding per pupil now is £5190
- Projected figure for 2019/20 is £4469
- Cut per pupil is 13.9%
A Birmingham academy chain abolishes governors, turns them into ‘ambassadors’
Faced with all these, and other, threats to education the role of school governing bodies, and in particular parent governors, is vital to ensure that the interests of parents and their children are defended and their voices are heard. But this will no longer be possible at one Birmingham academy chain. (6)
E-ACT is a national academy chain with 5 schools in Birmingham: 3 secondary – Shenley, North Birmingham, and Heartlands – and 2 primary – Mansfield Green and Nechells. E-ACT has just announced that it will replace its governing bodies, which include parents, with “academy ambassadorial advisory bodies”. E-ACT has told its school governors in a letter that these new bodies will “play a central role in celebrating the academy’s achievements”. But they will no longer hold their local schools to account, they will be just public relations and marketing tools.
Could E-ACT be another candidate to take over Small Heath school, or another academy following E-ACT’s lead? If so, it would remove parents’ right and responsibility as governors to hold the Small Heath leadership and management to account (just as the imposed IEB has now).
Birmingham Campaign for State Education 20 January 2015
Material comes from the following sources, with many thanks.
Henry Stewart, Local Schools Network, 30 December 3015. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/12/ofsted-reveals-that-a-school-is-six-times-as-likely-to-remain-inadequate-if-it-becomes-a-sponsored-academy
Henry Stewart, Local Schools Network, 22 October 2015. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/10/2015-gcse-results-maintained-schools-improving-faster-than-sponsored-academies/
John Bolt, Education for Everyone, 8 December 2015. https://educevery.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/how-camerons-bluster-tries-to-cover-up-his-retreat-on-academies/
Schools Week, 19 September 2015. http://schoolsweek.co.uk/academies-ask-to-take-on-unqualified-staff/
Andrew Baisley, Local Schools Network, 18 December 2015. http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/node/3831
Schools Week, 20 January 2015. http://schoolsweek.co.uk/e-act-academy-chain-abolishes-local-governing-bodies/