It’s the education secretary who’s mistaken about academies, not his shadow

Janet Downs's picture

Hinds says Rayner is ‘plain wrong’ – but she isn’t

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for education, Angela Rayner, is ‘just plain wrong’, writes education secretary Damian Hinds on Conservative Home.   The academies programme has improved England’s education system.  

His evidence?  65% of sponsored academies, ‘taken out of local authority control’ have improved from inadequate to good or better. 

Department for Education analysis (December 2017) upholds this but, as usual, it pays to look at the data.   

Nearly two-thousand sponsored academies have opened since 2010, the analysis says.  1,670 of these were previously local authority (LA) maintained schools – the remaining 300 or so weren’t.  115 (12%) of the previously LA schools were already good or outstanding.

965 sponsored academies had been inspected.   Of these, 405 were previously inadequate LA schools.  262 (65%) were now good or better.

35% of previously inadequate LA schools still less than good since becoming sponsored

The DfE analysis* shows that 35% of previously inadequate LA schools which became sponsored academies were still less than good at their most recent inspection as a sponsored academy.   Not something to crow about, surely?    

Ofsted says ‘a larger proportion of inspected sponsor-led academies are inadequate than any other type of school: 9% compared with 4% of free schools, 1% of academy converters and 2% of LA maintained schools.’ * 

Thirteen years are not ‘decades’

Hinds omits these inconvenient findings, of course.  Instead he claims that all the previously-inadequate LA schools which became sponsored academies were ‘schools that had been left to fail for decades…’.

It’s unclear where Hinds found his evidence for his emotive soundbite.  Ofsted  writes about ‘schools that have been less than good for a long time.’   The long time goes back to 2005.  That’s thirteen years not decades.  

37 of 52 secondary schools less than good since 2005 are academies.

52 secondary schools have been judged satisfactory, require improvement or inadequate in every inspection since 2005, Ofsted says.   Of these 52 secondary schools, 37 are currently academies and 29 are in multi-academy trusts.  What we don’t know is how long these schools have been academies. 

However, it would be unwise to use this data to form a conclusion about academization success or the lack of it.   And it should be remembered that before 2012 satisfactory meant satisfying the criteria not requires improvement.

LA-maintained schools have highest proportion of good or better schools

Ofsted has since revised the way it presents statistics bringing in some inspection data which was previously omitted.  This revision showed that LA-maintained schools had the highest proportion of good or better schools (90%).   

Someone at the DfE is feeding Hinds misleading data and reducing him to a mere mouthpiece.  There were other similar soundbites in the Conservative Home article.  I’ll discuss them in future articles.




*Such data should be used with caution.  Sponsored academies are usually previously-struggling schools which may be difficult to turn around (although it's claimed academization is necessary to do so).  Sample sizes are sometimes too small.  The DfE analysis contains numerous caveats about the difficulty of comparing inspection data for previously LA schools before and after conversion. 

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