Five things we learned from EPI report on MATs and councils

Education Policy Institute calls for government to tackle underperformance in both academies and maintained schools

New analysis compares MATs to maintained schools

The performance of schools in both local education authorities and multi-academy-trusts has been compared in a new report by the Education Policy Institute.

Its main conclusion is unlikely to end debates about which school structure works best, as it finds little overall difference in the performance of academies and maintained schools.

But here are five things we have learned today from the new report:

1. There are high and low performing MATs and LEAs

The EPI analysis found that there are both multi-academy trusts and local authorities at both ends of their league tables.

One of its main conclusions is that the type of school is less important than ensuring that schools are in a high performing group. The EPI rated schools on a contextualised improvement measure, which it says takes into account "characteristics such as pupil prior attainment and levels of disadvantage, as well as the historic performance of a school".

2. There is a primary and secondary split

The majority of the strongest performing primary school groups were local authorities and the majority of the best performing at GCSE were academy chains.

This, of course, partly reflects the fact that more than two-thirds of secondary schools are academies while more than two-thirds of primaries are maintained schools.

However, the EPI said the proportion of strongly performing primary schools in local authorities was still higher than expected,  “taking into account the total number of local authorities and academy chains". 

Conversely, academy groups are said to be over-represented in the lowest performers at primary level, making up eight of the bottom 20.

3. The London effect can be found in both groups

At primary school level, the highest performing local authorities are largely dominated by London and include Kensington and Chelsea, Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham.

The Harris Federation is the only academy chain in the top 10, ranked second.

At secondary school level, Brent, Hackney and Haringey local councils are all in the top 10, along with the Harris Federation.

4. Progress can be found up North

Much is often made of a North/South divide in education, but the EPI’s school improvement measure shows that both trusts and councils making a big difference in secondary school attainment.

West Yorkshire-based Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust, with four schools, is ranked highest in the EPI’s key stage 4 table, followed by Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which operates in Yorkshire and the North East.

Gorse Academies, also based in West Yorkshire, is ranked fifth, while Hull Council, which has three secondary schools, is ranked eighth.

5. The government needs to find solutions

The EPI report’s recommendations suggest interventions between councils and the academies programme could happen in both directions. It says the government should allow high-performing local authorities to take on schools from underperforming academy chains.

The EPI also says that although the government does not have the power to force academisation in consistently poor performing areas, it should scrutinise and challenge those local authorities through the regional schools commissioners to ensure that schools receive the support required.

It also suggests ministers should consider how they can intervene at an individual school level in these areas.

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