New Department for Education (DfE) research has found “substantial variation” in the performance of secondary sponsored academies.
However, the report from government statisticians, published today, says the performance of most cohorts of secondary sponsored academies has improved to the level of similar schools.
The analysis of the performance of sponsored academies came as the DfE revealed that more than half of pupils in England are now in academies or free schools.
The research groups sponsored academies into cohorts, based on the results of the first full academic year that they were an academy.
It says: “After academisation, most groups of [secondary] sponsored academies typically demonstrate improvement to a point where their performance is often indistinguishable from their similar schools and sometimes significantly better than them.”
However, it adds that, for some groups, the changes in performance between years “were not always improvements”, saying: “For some groups, performance year-on-year is volatile and oscillates around that of similar schools. In other groups, there is evidence to suggest year-on-year improvement has arrested or been reversed.”
There is, it says, “substantial variation” in performance.
The mixed findings have not stopped education secretary Damian Hinds using the research to justify a call for more schools to become academies.
He said: “We have seen many of these sponsored academies dramatically improve their Ofsted results following conversion, and this new research shows the improvements many schools have made since they became an academy.”
But the research also says: “There are some schools [sponsored academies] with results well below national average performance, even in the groups that have been academies for more than seven years. In contrast, some sponsored academies perform well above the national average.”
The authors say that secondary sponsored academies that have been open longer have improved, on average, so that they have results closer to the national average for all state-funded mainstream secondary schools.
They add that secondary sponsored academies that opened prior to 2010, on average, perform most similarly to the national average.
For primary sponsored academies, the report says that most groups “show signs of narrowing the gap with their similar schools after academisation; one group is now performing significantly better than its similar schools”.
However, it adds that “some groups are continuing to perform significantly less well than their similar schools”.
Mr Hinds said: “In the past, schools that failed were allowed to stay under local authority control for far too long. Academies have changed all that – failing schools can now be taken away from local bureaucracies who have not been able to improve them and given to school leaders who can.”