Attending an academy does not accelerate progress

A new report from NFER has analysed the performance of academy schools in 2014 GCSEs, and found no significant link between their academy status and improved pupil progress.

The research, which was conducted for the Local Government Association, compared academies that had been open for between two and four years and a group of maintained schools that had similar characteristics at the time the other schools became academies. Sponsored and converter academies were considered separately.

The analysis shows that the amount of attainment progress made by pupils in both sponsored and converter academies was not greater than in maintained schools with similar characteristics. In almost all analyses, the difference in average GCSE outcomes was small and not statistically significant.

However, the difference in the percentage of pupils at the sponsored academies who achieved five or more A* to C grades (including equivalent qualifications), including English and mathematics, was statistically significant compared to those at the similar maintained schools.

In terms of specific groups of pupils, there was evidence that the attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) and those who were not eligible was narrower in converter academies, and this was statistically significant. The gap was also narrower in the sponsored academies, but was not statistically significant. The analysis shows the attainment gaps for low- and high-ability pupils in both sponsored and converter academies and similar maintained schools was very similar.

Source: Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014: Final Report (2015), Local Government Association.

Invest early, but use evidence

Researchers from the NFER have been looking at early intervention, that is, approaches delivered “early in the life of a problem, or when children are younger”. This study, which is the fourth in a series for the Local Government Association, found that such approaches can have greater benefits in the long term and therefore be more cost effective.

But it highlighted the need for programmes to be evidence-based, and for these to be delivered with fidelity to the programme’s design. The authors emphasise that more work is needed to improve the evidence that is available, especially information about cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Department for Education has announced the next steps in the creation of the Early Intervention Foundation, which will provide advice and support on issues relating to early intervention.

Source: Early intervention: informing local practise (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research