No evidence that academy status improves performance of primary pupils, new research concludes

NFER report finds no difference between academies and maintained schools at key stage 2.

Researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) studied the association between academy status for primary and secondary schools and their pupils’ attainment in the 2015 key stage 2 tests and GCSE exams.

Their report, published today, reveals that there is no significant difference between the performance of primary academies and maintained schools.

It states: “There appear to be no short-term benefits, in terms of improved school performance, associated with academy status for primary schools.”

At GCSE, the proportion of academy pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths, was higher than in maintained schools. The proportion of pupils with these grades was 2.7 percentage points higher in sponsored academies, and 1.1 percentage points higher in converter academies.

But the overall difference in GCSE performance between academies and maintained schools was small and not statistically significant, the report stated.

Educate and improve

Both primary and secondary academies were significantly more likely to be rated outstanding by Ofsted than similar maintained schools.

In February 2016, 65 per cent of secondaries and 18 per cent of primaries were academies. However, the government has said that it would like all schools to have become academies by 2022.

The NFER research, which was conducted on behalf of the Local Government Association, compared academies that had been opened for between two and five years with maintained schools. The maintained schools chosen had similar characteristics to the academies at the time of their conversion.

Lesley Duff, NFER’s director of research, said: “There are many reasons for maintained schools to convert to academy status, but ultimately schools exist to educate and improve outcomes for all children and young people.

“As far as measures of attainment go, the benefits of academisation have yet to be demonstrated.”

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