In 2009, when the University of Birmingham published its report, the then Government was heavily promoting sponsored academies. The Birmingham researchers found that there was “no clear evidence that Academies produce better results than local authority schools with equivalent intakes.”
The researchers sympathised with the academy programme’s aim to improve the results of struggling schools and they expressed admiration for all those who worked in challenging schools whether these were academies or not. However, they concluded that it wasn’t clear that academy teachers were doing a better job than staff in non-academy schools. They found, like PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2008, that when schools improved they used similar methods. These had nothing to do with academy status but more to do with such factors as strong leadership and high expectations.
The Birmingham report concluded that evidence of the performance of academies by 2007 suggested that the academy programme was “a waste of time, effort and energy at least in terms of this rather narrow measure of KS4 outcomes”. It concluded that the money spent on academies would have been better targeted on refurbishing deprived schools or towards disadvantaged pupils in any type of school.