School performance in academy chains and local authorities – 2017

Academies have been a controversial element of the school system since their introduction, representing one of the biggest changes in English education over the last two decades. By the end of the last academic year, as many as two thirds of secondary schools and over a quarter of primary schools had academy status. Such sweeping changes to school structures have prompted countless disputes, with proponents of both academy schools and local authority (LA) run schools strongly contesting the relative merits of both models for school improvement. In this report, EPI supplies detailed evidence to this debate, with our latest comparison of the performance of academy chains, and local authorities in England. Examining pupil improvement, the research includes an updated methodology; offering our most accurate measure of school quality to date. The new research finds large performance variations across both chains and LAs – suggesting that neither full scale academisation, nor a complete return to the old local authority model, will lead automatically to school improvement. The report urges the government to offer a more effective system to tackle the worst performing school groups. Following the new evidence on performance, it recommends granting more options to low performing school groups to allow them to move into higher performing ones – whether that means under academy chain, or local authority oversight.

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