Multi-academy trusts not doing enough for high attaining poor pupils, says charity

Sutton Trust research finds poorer pupils with top grades at primary school do not make enough progress at multi-academy trusts

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Poorer pupils who perform well at the end of primary school are not making enough progress at sponsored academies in chains, according to a new study.

However, the research by the Sutton Trust charity found that disadvantaged pupils who have fallen behind at primary school make more progress by the time they sit GCSEs in these schools, compared to the national average.

The analysis, by Professor Merryn Hutchings and Professor Becky Francis, looked at the performance of students eligible for the pupil premium in schools run by multi-academy trusts from 2014-2016.

The researchers found that, on average, academy chains do better for their disadvantaged pupils with low prior attainment.

In more than half of the chains looked at (26 out of 48), students with lower grades at the end of primary school made more progress than in state schools generally.

But there were just eight chains where poorer pupils who were in the top 20 per cent at the end of primary school made more progress than the national average.

Mixed results

The research found that outcomes for disadvantaged pupils “vary massively” across different multi-academy trusts (MATs). Ten of the chains performed above the national average on key measures of 2016 attainment for disadvantaged pupils, including four – City of London, Diocese London, the Harris Federation and Outwood Grange – which were significantly above the average.

However, in 29 of the 48 chains, disadvantaged pupils performed below the national average for all state schools. The proportion of chains in which disadvantaged pupils perform above the national average has also fallen between 2013 and 2016.

While attainment for pupils was often poor in the chains analysed, over half were above the national average for improvement between 2014 and 2016. The most improved MAT this year is the Grace Academy Trust, which runs three schools in the West Midlands.

But there were ten chains which are neither attaining nor improving above the average for all secondary schools. These were:

  • AET
  • Diocese of Exeter
  • The Education Fellowship Trust
  • Greenwood Academies Trust
  • Learning Schools Trust
  • Leigh Academies Trust
  • TKAT
  • UCAT
  • Merchant Venturers
  • Northern Education Trust

To support attainment in academies, the Sutton Trust has called on the government to create a fund to support successful initiatives for high achievers from poorer families.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said that while “more than half of academy chains are doing a great job for their disadvantaged many high-attaining pupils are failing to fulfil their early academic potential in these schools”.

The Sutton Trust also said the government and the National and Regional Schools Commissioners should do more to create mechanisms that spread good practice between the best chains and the rest.

It said this could include creating a “taskforce to act as mentors to those sponsors struggling to realise their potential”.

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