Maintained schools 'more likely to stay 'good' than academies'

Local government leaders say schools that stuck with their council fared better in Ofsted inspections than those which academised

John Roberts

Council maintained schools do better at Ofsted than those which became academies, a report has claimed

Schools that remain with their council are more likely to keep a "good" or "outstanding" Ofsted rating than those that become an academy, local government leaders have claimed today.

The Local Government Association has published a new report comparing Ofsted outcomes of maintained schools and those which converted to academy trusts over the past five years.

It reveals that more council-run schools kept their "good" or "outstanding" judgement than those which chose to become academies.

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The LGA said the figures also show schools that were rated as "requires improvement" or "inadequate" five years ago were also more likely to improve if they stayed with their local authority than if they were converted to academy status.

However, this figure doesn't take into account how long each of these academies has been with a multi-academy trust (MAT). 

Academies minister Lord Agnew claimed the LGA's analysis was "deeply flawed" and that the figures demonstrated how many schools were failing under local authorities and taken on by multi-academy trusts.

All of the schools considered in the analysis were council maintained in 2014 with the academies converting after this.

The report has been produced by Angel Solutions and commissioned by the LGA.

It looks at 12,814 schools that have remained part of the local education authority and 4,033 schools that academised after February 2014.

By comparing Ofsted school inspection outcomes in February 2014 and 2019, it found:

  • 90 per cent of schools that were "good" or "outstanding" and remained council-maintained have kept their Ofsted rating, compared with 81 per cent of schools that were "good" or "outstanding" that converted to academies.
  • 88 per cent of schools requiring improvement or judged "inadequate" in February 2014 that remained maintained became "good" or "outstanding" by 2019, compared with 59 per cent of schools that converted to academies.
  • 41 per cent of schools requiring improvement or judged "inadequate" in February 2014 that converted to academies still had the same rating in February 2019.

The report follows new analysis that showed how MATS performed in school inspections for the first time.

Tes revealed that there is a huge disparity in outcomes for both primary and secondary trusts.

The LGA has repeated its call for councils to be allowed “to intervene and improve” academies found to be “inadequate”.

It said that under current rules, councils are stopped from helping, even in cases where a failing school cannot find an academy sponsor.

"Maintained schools with 'inadequate' Ofsted judgements, which are considered to be failing, now have to become sponsor-led academies.

"These are schools taken over by an academy chain, or multi-academy trust identified by the Department for Education," the LGA added.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We all aspire to see children get an education of the highest quality, whether that is in an academy or a council-maintained school.

“These findings clearly show that staying under council control delivers better results for a school than those that convert to an academy.

“Not only do more schools keep a 'good' or 'outstanding' rating if they remain maintained, but a significantly greater proportion are being turned around from struggling or failing into highly performing and successful schools.

“While academisation might be the answer in some cases, it is not always the best solution.

“Councils have an excellent track record in improving schools, and need to be given the necessary powers to intervene and support schools.”

Lord Agnew said: "The data actually underlines why our reforms were necessary and morally right, by pointing out how many under-performing schools were taken out of local authority control and turned into academies.

"It is unsurprising that local authorities fare better in an analysis that excludes schools that had failed under their leadership. It does not say anything about the effectiveness of sponsored academies.

“Contrary to the LGA’s interpretation, data published earlier this year shows that, in many cases, standards have risen more quickly in under-performing schools that have become academies than in similar council-run schools – reversing long-term cases of underperformance across the country.”

Leora Cruddas, the chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said: "This report is flawed. Particularly in the final section, which provides an analysis of the time taken to improve a school from 'inadequate' to 'good', the data is presented in different ways, which does not allow for direct comparisons. The analysis is therefore weak and the conclusions are flawed."

Last week, Ms Cruddas called for the school system to move to one wholly run by multi-academy trusts.

Writing for Tes, she said: “The proposal that all schools are part of a strong and sustainable group is particularly important as local authority education services retract and potentially leave smaller and isolated schools vulnerable. No school should be left behind.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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