The impact of academies on educational outcomes

The expansion of the academies programme has been one of the biggest changes to the English education system in a generation, with 3.4 million children now taught in either a sponsored or a converter academy. To help inform discussion about the performance of academies and their impact on educational outcomes, The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published a new report. The report brings together research conducted in 2016 by the London School of Economics and the EPI on the performance of different types of academies as well as that of Multi-Academy Trusts.

Overall, the report finds that the expansion of the academies programme has had little impact on education outcomes. For the earlier sponsored academies, which opened between 2002 and 2010, a positive effect equivalent to one grade higher per pupil in each of five GCSE subjects was found. Modest improvement was found in post-2010 convertor academies, although smaller than the effects of the pre-2010 sponsored academies. Schools that were rated as “outstanding” prior to converting to academy status between 2010 and 2014 showed improvement of around one grade higher per pupil in two GCSE subjects on average. However, there was no evidence of improvement for “good” and “satisfactory” schools that converted to academy status.

Source: The impact of academies on educational outcomes (July 2017), Education Policy Institute

Capital gains

A new report published by the Centre for Social Exclusion (CASE) at LSE explores the relative improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in London over the past two decades compared to those elsewhere in the country, the so-called “London Effect”.

The authors use two major datasets, the National Pupil Database and the Millennium Cohort Study, to describe the situation in London. They found that:

  • Disadvantaged pupils in London generally start primary school at age 5 at a similar level or behind their peers elsewhere in England. The London advantage then generally grows from the period they start school at age 5 through to age 11.
  • In 1997, about 47% of poorer pupils in both inner London and the rest of England achieved the expected level in English tests at age 11. By 2008, poorer pupils in inner London became 7 percentage points more likely to achieve this standard (75% for inner London compared with 68% for the rest of England).
  • The performance of disadvantaged pupils in London in exams at age 16 has improved substantially, starting from the mid-1990s onwards, and they are now achieving much higher results at age 16 than disadvantaged pupils outside London.
  • The characteristics of disadvantaged pupils in London are very different from those outside London, especially in terms of ethnicity. For example, disadvantaged pupils in inner London are much less likely to come from a White-British background (13% in inner London in 2013 as compared with 76% outside of London) and much more likely to come from other ethnic backgrounds.
  • Disadvantaged pupils in London are also more likely than those outside London to live in a deprived neighbourhood, to attend voluntary aided/controlled schools, less likely to attend foundation schools, and have a peer group that contains more disadvantaged pupils, more pupils from an ethnic minority, and who speak English as an Additional Language.

Source: Understanding the Improved Performance of Disadvantaged Pupils in London (2015), LSE.

Smart distractions

A new report from the LSE Centre for Economic Performance looks at changes in test scores after schools banned pupils from using mobile phones.

The authors analysed data on GCSE performance before and after a ban on mobiles in school (130,482 observations) and found an overall increase of 5.67% of a standard deviation in across-school and across-year test scores.

When pupil characteristics, prior peer achievement, and changes in school leadership/policies were taken into account, the average pupil’s test results in a school that banned mobiles were 6.41% of a standard deviation higher than scores from pupils at schools that allowed mobiles.

A particularly striking finding was that the overall improvements in test results were led by the lowest-achieving pupils and banning mobiles had no significant impact on high-achieving pupils. This led the authors to suggest that restrictions on mobiles may be a low-cost way to reduce educational inequalities.

Source: Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance (2015), The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Academies help the top pupils, not those at the bottom

A special paper from the Centre for Economic Performance has analysed the success of those schools that have converted to academies.

The paper concludes that schools that converted to academies between 2002 and 2007 improved their overall GCSE results by further raising the achievement of pupils in the top half of the ability distribution, and in particular pupils in the top 20%. In contrast, they found little evidence that academies helped pupils in the bottom 20% of the ability distribution. For schools that have converted to academies recently (in 2008 and 2009) they found no evidence of improvement at all.

The authors suggest that new ‘rules of the game’ should be designed to make sure that schools have incentives to focus on the most disadvantaged pupils and are held accountable for their progress.

Source: School Structure, School Autonomy and the Tail (2013), The London School of Economics and Political Science.