Council maintained schools ‘outperforming academies’ in Ofsted inspections

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COUNCIL maintained schools are continuing to outperform academies in Ofsted inspections, according to town hall leaders.

Analysis of the grades achieved by all schools under only the current inspection framework shows that 81 per cent of council-maintained schools are rated as “good” or “outstanding”, compared with 73 per cent of academies and 79 per cent of free schools, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

Figures pre-dating the introduction of the education watchdog’s more rigorous inspection scheme - including some which have not been assessed in at least five years - shows some 86 per cent of council-maintained schools are now rated “good” or “outstanding” by the education watchdog, compared with 82 per cent of academies and 79 per cent of free schools.

Campaigners said the figures represent the latest dent to the Government’s radical plans to force around 17,000 of England’s state schools to become academies, run by trusts rather than councils, within six years.

However the Government described the LGA’s figures as “completely misleading” and said they failed to acknowledge the “real progress” being made in turning the worst performing state-run schools into sponsored academies.

The LGA said the data also shows that “inadequate” council-maintained schools are more likely to improve if they stay with their local authority, rather than being forced to convert to an academy. Some 98 per cent of council-maintained schools improved in their first Ofsted inspection after being rated “inadequate”, compared with 88 per cent of academies.

Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “These figures clearly demonstrate that councils are education improvement partners, rather than barriers to delivering the high-quality education that our children deserve.

“With 86 per cent of council-maintained schools in England rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, the Government needs to recognise councils’ role in education improvement, and that imposing structural changes on schools is not the best way to improve education.

“Instead, schools need the freedom to choose, in partnership with parents and councils, whichever structure is most appropriate for them, and more pressing issues such as the need for more school places and the growing teacher recruitment crisis need to be addressed urgently to make sure that all schools can deliver the best possible education for every child.

“The time has come to reconsider the plans in the education White Paper and start a constructive, informed and inclusive debate about the best way to deliver educational excellence everywhere.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It’s thanks to such reforms that 1.4 million more children are now learning in ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools compared with 2010.

“The latest inspection results show 350,000 children now study in sponsored academies rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ - previously these schools suffered from chronic underperformance, blighting the life chances of young people and preventing them from achieving their full potential.

“And academies have made substantial progress with results in primary sponsored academies open for two years improving at around double the rate of maintained schools over the same period.

“For secondary sponsored academies, we’re seeing recently opened schools bettering their performance year-on-year.”

Unions say the case for academisation has not been backed by evidence of improved performance.

The academies plan, set out last month, has drawn criticism from teachers, parents and unions over concerns about quality.

The ATL, NUT and NASUWT unions have all opposed the academisation plans, while teachers and supporters have marched in cities across the country in protest.