Better results for academies

A new report from NFER explores the association between academy status and the attainment of pupils in high-stakes exams.

Academy schools in England are funded by the state but have the ability to teach a different curriculum from the national curriculum, are not bound by the school teachers’ pay and conditions document, and set their own admissions policy. The first academies to be founded in the mid to late 2000s were sponsored academies, under-performing schools whose running is taken over by a sponsor. Now more academies are converter academies, maintained schools deemed to be high-performing that choose to become academies.

Comparing similar schools’ performance in 2015, the report finds that, for secondary schools:

  • The proportion of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs (national high-stakes exams taken at 16) including English and maths was 2.7 percentage points higher in secondary sponsored academies than in similar maintained schools.
  • The proportion of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths was 1.1 percentage points higher in secondary converter academies than in similar maintained schools.

Both results were statistically significant.

For primary schools:

  • The average proportion of pupils who achieved National Curriculum (NC) level 4 (the expected standard for most pupils) at the end of Key Stage 2 (age 11) in sponsored academies was 1.2 percentage points higher than in similar maintained schools.
  • The average proportion of pupils who achieved NC level 4 at the end of Key Stage 2 in converter academies was 0.9 percentage points higher than in similar maintained schools.

Neither result was statistically significant.

Source: Analysis of Academy School Performance in 2015 (2016), NFER.

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