Ministers urged to ensure all academies learn lessons from strongest school chains

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THE GOVERNMENT needs to take urgent action to ensure the success of the best performing academy chains is repeated across the system, according to an education charity.

The Sutton Trust has published new research showing one-in-five established academy chains (eight out of 39) are performing below the national average for both the exam results and improvement levels of their poorer pupils.

The findings, based on the performance of disadvantaged youngsters attending academies in 39 chains between 2013 and 2015, shows that across the sponsored academies in the best chains, the proportion of poorer children gaining five or more good GCSEs is at least 12 percentage points higher than the average for similar pupils in all mainstream schools.

It highlights the work of successful academy chains including Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which runs more than a dozen schools around Yorkshire region.

It says that in the strongest performing academy trusts the proportion of disadvantaged students achieving five good GCSEs is at least 12 percentage points higher than the average for disadvantaged students in all state schools. Those chains that were most successful with disadvantaged pupils also tended to be successful with their more affluent pupils, while less successful chains tended to have poor results for both groups.

The eight chains that showed below average attainment and improvement over a two-year period included Northern Education Trust and Oasis Community Learning which both sponsor schools in Yorkshire. Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust said: “Our analysis shows while there are some academies achieving great results, a similar proportion continue to struggle to improve the outcomes of their most disadvantaged students. The Government and its new infrastructure of Regional Schools Commissioners needs to act radically and rapidly to ensure that academies achieve improved outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.”

Separate research by the Education Policy Institute has found that turning schools into academies does not guarantee that children will get a good education, research suggests.

It argues that there are high levels of variability in standards among academy chains - also known as multi-academy trusts (MATs) and local authorities.

The new study comes amid a continued push by government for schools to take on academy status, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan insisting that it is the best way to ensure that youngsters have access to a world-class education.

Researchers compared MATs and local authorities, based on how their schools have improved over time and overall performance, taking into account the starting point of pupils, to create the first ever league table comparing the two types of school group.

The findings show that at primary level, academy chains are over-represented among the best and worst performers in England.

In total, 12 of the top 30 groups are MATs, while 18 are local authorities, while nine of the worst 23 groups are MATs and 14 are councils.