Academy research shows disadvantaged pupils do well

Disadvantaged pupils in over half of the academy chains in a recent survey achieved five ‘good’ GCSEs, though researchers raised concern over uneven performance.

Sutton Trust researchers studied academy chains’ GCSE results, the percentage of their pupils taking the English Baccalaureate and how much academies had improved pupils’ performance.

Some of the biggest academy chains achieved significantly better results than average for the sector, though just seven academy chains it surveyed outperformed state schools in the Baccalaureate. Over half the chains did better than local authority schools in getting their disadvantaged pupils to achieve five ‘good’ GCSEs, but the researchers expressed concern about uneven performance: “Our analysis shows that there is enormous variation between chains in pupil outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. It is important that they are able to serve all their pupils, in order to ensure sponsor chains do not become ghettos for more disadvantaged pupils.”

The researchers want Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to reconsider Michael Gove’s refusal to let Ofsted inspect academy chains, something that Sir Michael Wilshaw (Chief Inspector of Schools in England and Head of Ofsted) has requested.

A DfE spokesperson said GCSE results in sponsored academies were improving at a faster rate than in local authority schools and that the proportion of pupils taking the English baccalaureate in them doubled last year.

What is your reaction to the Sutton Trust’s report? Share your views with the Eteach community!

3 thoughts on “Academy research shows disadvantaged pupils do well

  1. I’m not surprised, considering that here in Asia also, so many students – including very poor village and slum students who have parents who care about education – are able to pass their exams mainly thanks to the extra classes at academies they attend after school – where they receive more individual attention than at the large classes at the regular schools. This may also be because the tuition academy teachers are also often more often teaching because they actually like to teach, not just for salary or social prestige.

    Disadvantaged students worldwide have a special “push” to do well in education. They often work harder academically than their rich and middle-class peers, because they know from their own family’s experience that a good education can be the key to a better job and a better life. All my Sri Lankan students studied so hard and were so motivated. However, many of the rich Koreans, Russians, and Arabic students I taught in Kuala Lumpur were not motivated at all- they were only there because they were sent by their parents or companies or to get a Malaysia visa. They were more interested in the local nightclubs than their classes! Disadvantaged students see a chance of a real improvement as a result of education, but rich students not as much so.

  2. There are fundamental flaws in the methodology of this research and an error in the interpretation as set out in the headline of this article.

    Flaw 1: what is a ‘large academy chain’?. The researchers pointed out that the majority of academies in the research comprised only two schools. Some of these two academy chains had been formerly public schools or high achieving grammars. Take a small number of disadvantaged pupils and place them within a mainly highly motivated and well supported group and there is a high likelihood that this immersion will have a positive impact. Isn’t that what happened when working class kids attended grammar schools away in different social environments from their home catchments?

    Flaw 2: even where academy chains were large (e.g. 50 academies) only 2 or 3 schools from these chains were selected for analysis in the study. How was the selection made. 50+ is a local authority-size chain. Every teacher will know that, pre-academisation, two schools could be carefully selected from any local authority pool to demonstrate success, or otherwise.

    The real aim of this study, seems to me to prove the success of London and the South-East compared to other regions. Quelle surprise! The density of population in those regions ensured that real market conditions can operate in education, with sufficient consumer choice available to all. In geographically widespread populations, choice is only available to those who can afford transport.

    I hope those who funded this study look at its outcomes in detail, and with an informed analytical eye.

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