Three out of four academy chains have coasting schools


New research by the Sutton Trust shows that almost half of the government’s academy chains have fail to ensure expected GCSE results and are struggling to improve the grades of disadvantaged pupils.

According to the Sutton Trust, three out of four academy chains have schools that are “coasting” (44%), while a handful of top performing chains, such as Ark and Harris Federation, with a large number of schools, were leading performance in the academy sector.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Ministers have failed to carry out any evaluation of whether their flagship policies are driving improvement in the schools system. Instead, the Conservatives are dogmatically insisting on placing even greater numbers of schools under the charge of academy chains, whose governance and performance it has failed to evaluate properly.

“This research demonstrates that academy sponsorship is not the driver of school improvement. The small number of sponsors whose schools are achieving well for their disadvantaged pupils and for their pupils as a whole is overshadowed by a greater number of low-performing chains. This means that a far larger group of providers are having a ‘negative impact’ and indeed may be ‘harming the prospects’ of disadvantaged students. This is intolerable.

“It is essential that Nicky Morgan pauses to reflect on the findings of this report."

Report author Prof Becky Francis said: "There is very significant variation in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, both between and within chains.

"Some chains continue to achieve impressive outcomes for their disadvantaged students against a range of measures, demonstrating the transformational impact on life chances that can be made.

"However, a larger group of low-performing chains are achieving results that are not improving and may be harming the prospects of their disadvantaged students."

The report calls for new, clear and more rigorous criteria to be applied by the Department for Education (DfE) when sponsors are approved and commissioned.

It says new chains should not be allowed to expand until they have a track record of success in driving improvement in their existing academies, and the government must not ignore the negative impact that a number of chains at the other end of the spectrum are having on school quality and the life chances of the young people they serve.

A DfE spokesman said:  "We know that for some academies there is more to do... many of these are most likely to include sponsored academies which have a history of low performance in their former schools."

School Leadership Today