Statement by Mr Gove re academy converters driving up standards

J Downs made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

The request was partially successful.

From: J Downs

9 March 2012

Dear Department for Education,

Mr Gove told the Education Select Committee on 31 January 2012 that
"Academy converters and free schools are helping to drive up
standards for all children, particularly the most disadvantaged."

I should be grateful if you could provide the evidence which
underpins Mr Gove's statement.

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

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Department for Education

9 March 2012

Dear Mr/Ms Downs

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
2012/0016124.

Thank you
Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288
www.education.gov.uk

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From: J Downs

11 April 2012

Dear Department for Education,

2012/0016124

I have not yet received a reply to my FOI request asking for
evidence which underpinned Mr Gove's statement that converter
academies are helping to push up standards particularly for the
disadvantaged.

By law, you should have responded promptly by 10 April 2012.

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

Link to this

Department for Education

2 May 2012

Dear J Downs,
 
Thank you for your email dated 9 March, in which you requested evidence which underpins
Michael Gove’s statement at the Education Select Committee on 31 January 2012 that ‘Academy
converters and Free Schools are helping to drive up standards for all children, particularly
the most disadvantaged.'  I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 and I apologise for this late reply.  Please remember to quote the correspondence
reference number in any future communications.
 
A number of independent studies have been published which provide evidence that Academies are
raising standards:
A Public Accounts Committee report on Academies, published early in 2011, reported
that Academies have achieved rapid academic improvements and raised aspirations in some of the
most challenging schools in the most deprived areas of the country[1][1].  The report
concluded that this had been achieved through high-quality leadership, a relentless focus on
standards, and innovative approaches to learning and to the school timetable.

Research by Machin & Venoit (2011) focused on Sponsored Academies and found that “moving to a
more autonomous school structure through Academy conversion generates…a significant
improvement in pupil performance.”  The authors also found significant positive external
effects on the pupil performance in neighbouring schools. (Stephen Machin and James Venoit,
“Changing School Autonomy: Academy Schools and their Introduction to England’s Education”,
Centre for the Economics of Education, Discussion Paper DP 123 (April, 2011)).

 The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions recommended increasing the number of Sponsored
Academies as a way of increasing social mobility, adding that there is a gap between parental
demand for good schools and the supply of them[2][1].

The National Audit Office’s evaluation of Academies[3][1] reported that Academies have
increased the rate of improvement in GCSE results compared with trends in their predecessor
schools, with a clear lift in performance after schools become Academies.  The report
acknowledges that Academies have some way to go to match the national average for the
percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs or equivalent, particularly when
English and mathematics are included.  However it also points out that Academies are making
good progress against comparable maintained schools both in absolute attainment and relative
to prior attainment, with earlier Academies generally sustaining improvements over the longer
period for which trend data is available.

Internal analysis of Academy performance data supports the findings from the NAO and external
evaluators.  The time series data is attached in Annex B for reference. 

Here are some examples of strategies employed in individual Academies to improve standards:

 - Mossbourne Community Academy opened in 2004 on the site of the failing Hackney Downs
School.  The Academy has a significant level of pupils eligible for Free School Meals and with
special educational needs.  In their last Ofsted report, the Academy was rated outstanding
with inspectors stating: “Students make rapid progress because of excellent behaviour that
creates a climate where lessons are entirely focused on learning”.  The report also noted that
given the starting points of the students, their progress placed the Academy in the top 1% of
all secondary schools in England.

 - Manchester Academy (serving the disadvantaged Moss Side area of Manchester) has been judged
"outstanding" by Ofsted.  The report stated that: “A network of very strong support
arrangements ensures that students' behaviour and attendance are monitored closely and the
Academy takes extremely effective action to remedy any identified weaknesses. As a result,
attendance has improved steadily and the number of incidents of unacceptable behaviour has
diminished.”  The 2010 GCSE results showed that 38% of pupils achieved 5 or more A*-C grades,
from a starting base of its predecessor school achieving just 6%.

 The rate of improvement in Sponsored Academies continues to outstrip that seen in other
schools.  Analysis of the 2011 Secondary School Performance Tables was published on 26 January
2012 and shows that, in the 166 Sponsored Academies with results in both 2010 and 2011
(excludes ex-CTC and ex-independent schools), the percentage of pupils who achieved 5+ A*-C
including English and mathematics increased by 5.7 percentage points. This compares to 3.1
percentage points in all state-funded schools. 

 Further analysis showed that Sponsored Academies that had been open the longest had, on
average, higher results than those which had recently become Sponsored Academies and this was
also true for disadvantaged pupils in those schools (disadvantage is defined as those known to
be eligible for free school meals or continuously looked-after for at least 6 months).  For
such pupils, results were higher in Sponsored Academies that had been open for five or more
years than they were in other state funded schools.  

The data which underpins this analysis is available to download from the Performance Tables
website. 

[4]http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/perf...

 

TABLE 1: Academy Performance

 

 Annual Changes in the Proportion of Pupils Achieving
5+A*-C including English & Maths        
% point
Change in
% point Performance Maintained
Change in of Schools
Academy Maintained Time
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Performance Schools Series
0
Academies
with                     - - 40.2
results
in 2002 &
2003
3
Academies
with 12.5 9.4               -3.1 0.9 41.1
results
in 2003 &
2004  
10
Academies
with   12.7 14.4             1.7 1.4 42.5
results
in 2004 &
2005  
Break in series – see notes below
13
Academies
with     15.5 21.6           6.1 1.5 44.0
results
in 2005 &
2006  
19
Academies
with       21.6 26.2         4.6 1.8 45.8
results
in 2006 &
2007  
35
Academies
with         24.7 29.3       4.6 2.4 48.2
results
in 2007 &
2008  
62
Academies
with           29.8 34.9     5.1 2.5 50.7
results
in 2008 &
2009  
106
Academies
with             34.9 42.7   7.8 4.5 55.1
results
in 2009 &
2010  

  

162 Academies with results in 2010 & 2011                 40.6 46.3 5.7 3.1 58.2
                           

 

Notes: Figures used to derive annual improvement rates for 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 are
based on pupils aged 15.  Figures used to derive annual improvement rates for 2005-06,
2006-07, 2007-8, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 are based on all pupils at the end of Key Stage
4. 

Source: Department for Education (January 2012)

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by copyright. You are free to use it
for your own purposes, including for private study and non-commercial research, and for any
other purpose authorised by an exception in current copyright law. Documents (except
photographs) can also be used in the UK without requiring permission for the purposes of news
reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, would require the permission
of the copyright holder.

Most documents produced by a government department will be protected by Crown Copyright. Most
Crown copyright information can be re-used under the Open Government Licence
([5]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...). For information about
the OGL and about re-using Crown Copyright information please see The National Archives
website
-[6]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor... .

 Copyright in other documents may rest with a third party. For information about obtaining
permission from a third party see the Intellectual Property Office’s website at
[7]www.ipo.gov.uk.

 If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint to
the Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter.  Your
complaint will be considered by an independent review panel, who were not involved in the
original consideration of your request. 

 If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you may then
contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

 Yours sincerely,

Helena Antoniou

Helena Antoniou
Academies Central Operations Division
[email address]
[8]www.education.gov.uk
Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0016214.

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References

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1. file:///rchs/RespondToCorrespondence.aspx?sn=SHEECHOAPP02,2962506,82&CaseCode=83e956f3-b8ce-4d3a-be42-c744e229093d&ResponseCode=846c05cc-7e04-493c-8b96-d9bed381f918#_ftn1
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4. http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/perf...
5. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
blocked::http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
6. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
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http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
7. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/
blocked::http://www.ipo.gov.uk/
http://www.ipo.gov.uk/
8. http://www.education.gov.uk/

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Department for Education

2 May 2012

Dear Mr/Ms Downs,
Thank you for your email dated 9 March, in which you requested evidence which underpins Michael Gove’s
statement at the Education Select Committee on 31 January 2012 that ‘Academy converters and Free Schools
are helping to drive up standards for all children, particularly the most disadvantaged.’  I have dealt
with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and I apologise for the late reply.. Please
remember to quote the correspondence reference number in any future communications.
 
A number of independent studies have been published which provide evidence that Academies are raising
standards:
A Public Accounts Committee report on Academies, published early in 2011, reported that Academies have
achieved rapid academic improvements and raised aspirations in some of the most challenging schools in the
most deprived areas of the country[1][1].  The report concluded that this had been achieved through
high-quality leadership, a relentless focus on standards, and innovative approaches to learning and to the
school timetable.

Research by Machin & Venoit (2011) focused on Sponsored Academies and found that “moving to a more
autonomous school structure through Academy conversion generates…a significant improvement in pupil
performance.”  The authors also found significant positive external effects on the pupil performance in
neighbouring schools. (Stephen Machin and James Venoit, “Changing School Autonomy: Academy Schools and
their Introduction to England’s Education”, Centre for the Economics of Education, Discussion Paper DP 123
(April, 2011)).

 The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions recommended increasing the number of Sponsored Academies as a
way of increasing social mobility, adding that there is a gap between parental demand for good schools and
the supply of them[2][1].

The National Audit Office’s evaluation of Academies[3][1] reported that Academies have increased the rate
of improvement in GCSE results compared with trends in their predecessor schools, with a clear lift in
performance after schools become Academies.  The report acknowledges that Academies have some way to go to
match the national average for the percentage of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade GCSEs or
equivalent, particularly when English and mathematics are included.  However it also points out that
Academies are making good progress against comparable maintained schools both in absolute attainment and
relative to prior attainment, with earlier Academies generally sustaining improvements over the longer
period for which trend data is available.

Internal analysis of Academy performance data supports the findings from the NAO and external evaluators. 
The time series data is attached in Annex B for reference. 

Here are some examples of strategies employed in individual Academies to improve standards:

 - Mossbourne Community Academy opened in 2004 on the site of the failing Hackney Downs School.  The
Academy has a significant level of pupils eligible for Free School Meals and with special educational
needs.  In their last Ofsted report, the Academy was rated outstanding with inspectors stating: “Students
make rapid progress because of excellent behaviour that creates a climate where lessons are entirely
focused on learning”.  The report also noted that given the starting points of the students, their progress
placed the Academy in the top 1% of all secondary schools in England.

 - Manchester Academy (serving the disadvantaged Moss Side area of Manchester) has been judged
"outstanding" by Ofsted.  The report stated that: “A network of very strong support arrangements ensures
that students' behaviour and attendance are monitored closely and the Academy takes extremely effective
action to remedy any identified weaknesses. As a result, attendance has improved steadily and the number of
incidents of unacceptable behaviour has diminished.”  The 2010 GCSE results showed that 38% of
pupils achieved 5 or more A*-C grades, from a starting base of its predecessor school achieving just 6%.

 The rate of improvement in Sponsored Academies continues to outstrip that seen in other schools.  Analysis
of the 2011 Secondary School Performance Tables was published on 26 January 2012 and shows that, in the 166
Sponsored Academies with results in both 2010 and 2011 (excludes ex-CTC and ex-independent schools), the
percentage of pupils who achieved 5+ A*-C including English and mathematics increased by 5.7 percentage
points. This compares to 3.1 percentage points in all state-funded schools. 

 Further analysis showed that Sponsored Academies that had been open the longest had, on average, higher
results than those which had recently become Sponsored Academies and this was also true for disadvantaged
pupils in those schools (disadvantage is defined as those known to be eligible for free school meals or
continuously looked-after for at least 6 months).  For such pupils, results were higher in Sponsored
Academies that had been open for five or more years than they were in other state funded schools.  

The data which underpins this analysis is available to download from the Performance Tables website. 

[4]http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/perf...

 

TABLE 1: Academy Performance

 

 Annual Changes in the Proportion of Pupils Achieving 5+A*-C
including English & Maths        
% point % point Change Maintained
Change in in Performance Schools
Academy of Maintained Time
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Performance Schools Series
0 Academies with
results in 2002 &                     - - 40.2
2003
3 Academies with
results in 2003 & 12.5 9.4               -3.1 0.9 41.1
2004  
10 Academies with
results in 2004 &   12.7 14.4             1.7 1.4 42.5
2005  
Break in series – see notes below
13 Academies with
results in 2005 &     15.5 21.6           6.1 1.5 44.0
2006  
19 Academies with
results in 2006 &       21.6 26.2         4.6 1.8 45.8
2007  
35 Academies with
results in 2007 &         24.7 29.3       4.6 2.4 48.2
2008  
62 Academies with
results in 2008 &           29.8 34.9     5.1 2.5 50.7
2009  
106 Academies with
results in 2009 &             34.9 42.7   7.8 4.5 55.1
2010  

  

162 Academies with results in 2010 & 2011                 40.6 46.3 5.7 3.1 58.2
                           

 

Notes: Figures used to derive annual improvement rates for 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 are based on pupils
aged 15.  Figures used to derive annual improvement rates for 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-8, 2008-09, 2009-10
and 2010-11 are based on all pupils at the end of Key Stage 4. 

Source: Department for Education (January 2012)

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by copyright. You are free to use it for your own
purposes, including for private study and non-commercial research, and for any other purpose authorised by
an exception in current copyright law. Documents (except photographs) can also be used in the UK without
requiring permission for the purposes of news reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial
publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder.

Most documents produced by a government department will be protected by Crown Copyright. Most Crown
copyright information can be re-used under the Open Government Licence
([5]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...). For information about the OGL and
about re-using Crown Copyright information please see The National Archives website
-[6]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor... .

 Copyright in other documents may rest with a third party. For information about obtaining permission from
a third party see the Intellectual Property Office’s website at [7]www.ipo.gov.uk.

 If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint to the
Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be
considered by an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original consideration of your
request. 

 If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you may then contact the
Information Commissioner’s Office. 

 Yours sincerely,

Helena Antoniou

Helena Antoniou
Academies Central Operations Division
[email address]
[8]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0021991.

 

 

 

-----------------------------------

[9][1] “Department for Education: The Academies Programme” (September 2010)
[10]http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/1011/...

-----------------------------------

[11][1] “Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions” (2009)
[12]http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...

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From: J Downs

3 May 2012

Dear Department for Education,

My question referred to converter academies not sponsored ones.
Your answer refers to sponsored academies.

You are correct that the Public Accounts Committee endorsed academy
conversion as a means of raising achievement. However, the Public
Accounts Committee had missed the downside to the academies
programme given in the evidence it consulted ie the National Audit
Office (NAO) report 2010. NAO noted not all academies were raising
results.

Professor Machin wrote in the Guardian that the LSE report he
co-authored could not be used to support converter academies. This
was actually made clear in the LSE report but has been ignored by
the DfE.

The 2009 report from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions is
now archived at the National Archives - this suggests it's being
quietly forgotten apart from the quotation about increasing the
number of city academies which the report says: "have been a
significant success, at both primary and secondary level." The
"significant success" was not constant across all academies (see
PricewaterHouseCooper 2008 below). There were no primary academies
in 2009 although a tiny number of academies had become all-through
(ie 5-19). This miniscule number had not been in existence long
enough to be deemed a success.

PricewaterHouseCoopers 2008 concluded "“There is insufficient
evidence to make a definitive judgement about the Academies as a
model for school improvement” and “the process of change was
complex and varied and could not be ascribed to a “simple uniform
‘Academy effect’”. PWC found that there was “considerable diversity
across individual Academies in the levels and improvements
achieved.”

NAO 2010 found that the improvement in results of sponsored
academies seemed to be as a result of the increased attainment of
advantaged pupils - the results for disadvantaged pupils remained
at a low level. It concluded,“Many of the academies established so
far are performing impressively in delivering the intended
improvements. It cannot be assumed, however, that academies’
performance to date is an accurate predictor of how the model will
perform when generalised more widely."

Your examples of successful academies do not, of course, name those
that have failed. And it is disingenuous to suggest that Mossbourne
rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Hackney Downs just because
Mossbourne was built on the same site. Hackney Downs had closed
several years before Mossbourne opened.

The rate of improvement measure is, as you well know, calculated
from a lower base. Any school where results improve from say 20% to
40% will have a greater rate of improvement (100%) than a school
where results improve from 60% to 65%.

Conclusions about school performance using GCSE results are
disputed as FullFact, an independent third party, discovered.
FullFact analysed various claims including one by the Local Schools
Network which was praised for its "depth". The FullFact article is
here:

http://fullfact.org/articles/academies_s...

Channel 4 FactCheck looked into Government claims about academies
and found that any ministerial announcement about academies should
be treated with "a dose of healthy scepticism". Their analysis can
be found here:

http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/fact...

I am surprised it took the DfE so long to reply to my original FoI
request. When the response eventually arrived it did not deal with
the question.

I should be grateful therefore if the DfE could address the
original request to publish the evidence which underpinned Mr
Gove's assertion that ‘Academy converters and Free Schools are
helping to drive up standards for all children, particularly the
most disadvantaged.’

If there is no evidence then please say so.

J Downs

Link to this

From: J Downs

3 May 2012

Dear Department for Education,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for
Education's handling of my FOI request 'Statement by Mr Gove re
academy converters driving up standards'.

The answer does not relate to converter academies but sponsored
ones.

I received two identical replies but with different reference
numbers. I give both below.

I should be grateful if the DfE could respond to my initial query
which was about converter academies and free schools.

2012/0021991
2012/0016214.

I have responded in full on WhatDoTheyKnow website and sent a copy
to the DfE. A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence
is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/st...

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

Link to this

From: J Downs

11 June 2012

Dear Department for Education,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for
Education's handling of my FOI request 'Statement by Mr Gove re
academy converters driving up standards'.

I requested an internal review on 3 May 2012. I have heard nothing.
I wrote to say I had been given two separate acknowledgements to my
original FoI request asking for evidence which underpinned Mr
Gove's statements that academy converters were driving up
standards. Both acknowledgements had different reference numbers.

I received a reply for the FoI request but this did not deal with
my question. It gave what it regarded as evidence for a rise in
results by sponsored academies. My FoI request was about converter
academies.

I should be grateful if you could explain to me why I had two
acknowledgements with different reference numbers and, more
importantly, ensure that I receive an answer to my original request
ie for evidence that underpinned Mr Gove's assertion that academy
CONVERTERS are driving up standards.

It is likely that there is actually no such evidence. If there is
none then please say so.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/st...

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

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Department for Education

12 June 2012

Dear Mr/Ms Downs

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0039995

Thank you

Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288

Web: www.education.gov.uk

Twitter: www.twitter.com/educationgovuk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

Description: Description: Description:
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Department for Education

21 June 2012

Dear Janet Downs,
Thank you for your email of 3 May, in which you requested an Internal
Review of the Department for Education’s handling of your Freedom of
Information request to provide evidence that converter Academies and Free
Schools are driving up standards, as quoted by Michael Gove in his speech
of 31 January.
 
I am sorry that you were unhappy with the initial response that you
received. 

The Department has now completed its internal appeal process and has
carried out a thorough review of the case, chaired by a senior officer who
was not involved with the original request. Our investigations showed that
the evidence which the Department provided to you should have been more
clearly focussed on converter Academies and Free Schools.

I have attached a summary of evidence relating to converter Academies and
to Free Schools on driving up standards.

 As converter Academies and Free Schools are still relatively new, the
majority of in-country evidence on improvements in Academy performance is
based on sponsored Academies. Whilst no specific analysis has yet been
undertaken in England into the extent to which converter Academies and
Free Schools are driving up standards, international findings on the
performance of autonomous school and on schools similar to the Free School
model, and other relevant evidence is included in the attached.

Information on performance of converter Academies and Free Schools will
become available as part of the Department’s performance tables which are
published annually and can be accessed at:

[1]http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/perf...

 The Department also intends to publish a report on Key Stage 4
performance in 2011 on sponsored Academies in its Research Report series,
including comparisons to a group of matched non-Academy schools;
performance trends over time; and analysis by length of time open as an
Academy. From 2012, there should be sufficient numbers of converters open
long enough to allow analysis to be extended to include converter
Academies. If this is undertaken, the first findings should be available
in 2013.

 I hope that this information satisfies your enquiry.

Yours sincerely,

Helena Antoniou
Academies Central Operations
[email address]
[2]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0026083.

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From: J Downs

22 June 2012

Dear Department for Education,

Thank you for your reply of 21 June 2012 asking for the evidence
which Mr Gove cited to show that academy converters were driving up
standards.

You say you have attached evidence. There is no attachment. The
links lead to school performance tables and the DfE website.

You admit that there is no evidence as yet about how converter
academies are raising standards. Instead you base your claim on
"international evidence" which shows that autonomous schools tend
to perform better. This is true but you don't say that in 2009 the
United Kingdom was one of four countries that granted more autonomy
to schools than other countries (OECD 2009).

Your reply about the Swedish model is disingenous. The Swedish
Education Minister, Bertil Ostberg, cautioned the Government that
Free Schools in Sweden have been a failure and warned the British
Government not to introduce them. Mr Ostberg stated:

“We have actually seen a fall in the quality of Swedish
schools since the Free Schools were introduced”.

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

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Department for Education

22 June 2012


Attachment 2012 0016214 Downs final reponse 15 June 2012.doc
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Dear Janet Downs,
Thank you for your email dated 21 June, in which you stated that you had
not received the attachment referred to in correspondence from the
Department of the same date.  I apologise for the absence of the
attachment and am re-sending it. Please contact the Department again if
you still do not receive it.

You also commented about the Academies performance data that you were able
to access via the links provided , and the nature of some of the evidence
sent to you in my previous response.The  evidence and data available in
the links is all that is currently held about Academy and Free Schools
performance . If there is anything further that you cannot find that is
referenced in the attachment of the evidence base for converter Academies
and Free Schools please contact the Department and we will do what we can
to locate it for you.  

With reference to your previous enquiry as to why your correspondence had
been allocated two references, this is due to the way in which the
Department's correspondence system records cases  - a different reference
number is given for each letter that is sent into the Department. I
apologise for any confusion that this might have caused. 
 
Yours sincerely

Helena Antoniou
Academies Central Operations
[email address]
[1]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0042273.

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From: J Downs

27 June 2012

Dear Department for Education,

2012 0016214

Thank you for resending the attachment. I have now read it.

You cite references showing how school autonomy tends to produce
better results and place in parenthesis the words “of the kind
experienced by Free Schools and Academies”. These benefits are
well-know and not disputed. However, high levels of autonomy are
not confined to Free Schools and Academies. The Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the United
Kingdom was among only four countries that granted “the greatest
autonomy to schools – not only in allocating resources but also in
making decisions about curricula and assessments.” This was despite
the restraints of the national curriculum – there was still enough
leeway for schools to decide what and how to teach. Autonomy was
already present in UK schools in 2009.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/17/43/48910...

You mentioned the “large volume of evidence about Charter Schools
in the US” and admit it is mixed. You do not mention the large 2009
CREDO report by Stanford University which looked at 16 states and
found that while 17% of charter schools provided "superior
education opportunities," nearly 50% have results no different from
local public schools, and 37% delivered learning results that are
"significantly worse than their student would have realized had
they remained in traditional public schools."

http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIP...

You cite Hoxby. Hoxby was critical of CREDO research. CREDO’s
response is here:

http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/CREDO_...

You cite California but do not mention the crisis in education in
that state due to lack of funding. Schools in affluent areas expect
parents to contribute and raise funds. Schools in poorer areas
cannot do this. Teachers are subsidising the education of their
pupils by buying resources and giving time for free. TES (10
February 2012 – not available on line) reported how California had
slipped from being one of the best systems in the US to one of the
worst

The California funding crisis has had other consequences – the
increasing involvement of the private sector. TES gives the example
of the Foundation for Excellence in Education formed by Jeb Bush
(brother of George “). Its mission is “to ignite a movement of
reforms, state by state, to transform education for the 21st
century.” All very laudable until one discovers that this “reform”
will be facilitated by a link up with Wireless Generation, a
Murdoch-owned company providing software, assessment tools and data
services.

You cite Ahlin 2003 re school competition. A major review of the
available evidence published in 2009 found the scope of much
previous research was limited to test scores in reading and maths.
This neglected other subjects or other kinds of achievement. Any
positive effects were small and statistically insignificant.
Competitions between schools carried a risk of increased
segregation. Findings about the impact of market forces on
efficiency – increasing achievement while lowering costs – were
inconclusive. Schools in competition with each other often shifted
spending from teaching to non-teaching spending such as marketing.
Finally, the reviewers found no link between innovation and market
mechanism – the opposite was true in many cases as schools in
competition with each other tended to become more traditional.

http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/pu...

The OECD also found that the evidence linking user choice with
educational outcomes was mixed (Economic Survey of the UK 2012).

You mention free schools in Sweden and admit it is “more difficult
to assess” their impact. Wiborg, Institute of Education, researched
Swedish free school policy and concluded: “English policy-makers
and the press have made much of the parallels between the
‘free-school’ type reforms here and the Swedish experiment. In fact
they are far from identical and operate in a different context. The
Swedish experiment (using for-profit private providers) has proved
expensive and has not led to significant learning gains overall. At
the same time the Swedish reforms, albeit on a small scale, appear
to have increased inequality, even in the context of this very
egalitarian system. In the context of a more divided system,
similar reforms in England may have more damaging effects on
inequality and school segregation.”

http://www.llakes.org/wp-content/uploads...

Finally, you give “early performance evidence” about converter
academies. You say that the 2011 GCSE results show that results in
Academies open for two years have improved twice as fast as those
in maintained schools. Firstly, no converter academy had been
opened for two years when the 2011 cohort took their GCSEs.
Academies open for two years or more in May 2011 would have been
sponsored academies and the fast improvement rate you quote would
have been calculated from a lower base – sponsored academies tended
to be poor-performing schools. You say that 77.1% of converter
academies gained the benchmark 5+ A*-C including Maths and English
and this compared to 58.2% in all maintained schools. The 25
converter academies to which you refer were previously
high-performing schools (see DfE link below), so it is to be
expected that they would outperform a group of schools comprising
all levels of attainment.

Academies in chains are mainly sponsored academies – any evidence
about results in sponsored academies cannot be applied to converter
academies.

In any case, the latest research from your own Department, which
compared the results of sponsored academies with the results of
similar schools, found that, while results for pupils in sponsored
academies improved at a faster rate than in a group of similar
non-academy schools, results for sponsored academies overall were
broadly the same as in the latter group. However, when equivalent
qualifications were excluded, results in sponsored academies were
lower than in the group of similar non-academy schools: in the
former 32.6% reached the benchmark (excluding equivalent
qualifications) and in the latter, 35.6% reached the benchmark
(again, excluding equivalent qualifications.) Results for both FSM
and non-FSM pupils were broadly the same in sponsored academies and
the group of similar non-academies.

https://www.education.gov.uk/publication...

The bottom line is that there is that Mr Gove’s evidence about how
converter academies have already led to an increase in results does
not exist.

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

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Department for Education

28 June 2012

Dear Ms Downs

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0043488.

Regards
Department for Education

Web: www.education.gov.uk
Twitter: www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

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Department for Education

18 July 2012

Dear Janet Downs,
Thank you for your email dated 27 June 2012, in which you commented on the
Department’s response to your previous requests for evidence relating to
Michael Gove’s speech on 31 January.
There is a large body of international evidence around school autonomy and
about US Charter Schools in particular and we accept that there are
examples of more critical findings such as those you cite. However
Ministers believe that the balance of evidence is positive about the
impact of school autonomy and what has been achieved by good Charter
Schools.
 
As I mentioned in my letter to you of 15 June, as converter Academies and
Free Schools are still relatively new, no specific analysis has yet been
undertaken in England into the extent to which converter Academies and
Free Schools are driving up standards. Information on their performance
 will become available as part of the Department’s performance tables
which are published annually at
[1]http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/perf..., and through any
further analysis undertaken when the 2012 Key Stage 4 data become
available early in 2013.
 
Yours sincerely,

Helena Antoniou
Academies Central Operations
[email address]
[2]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0043488.

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2. http://www.education.gov.uk/

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From: J Downs

18 July 2012

Dear Department for Education,

REF: 2012/0043488

Thank you for your reply. Ministers are right to recognise the
importance of autonomy - it is a pity, therefore, that they prefer
to ignore the fact that UK schools already enjoyed a high degree of
autonomy in 2009 (as confirmed by the OECD) thanks to Local
Management of Schools, established in 1988.

As you say, the evidence re Charter schools in the USA is mixed -
although the Credo study was the most comprehensive survey and that
was not positive. However, what the Government chooses to ignore is
that for the last 20 years UK schools have had the degree of
autonomy which charter schools have. There is, therefore, no need
to look to charter schools as a model for autonomy. UK schools were
there first.

You are right that it is too early to say whether converter
academies and free schools will raise results. It will take at
least five years to assess fully the affect of converting and
whether their results will be better than the ones they achieved
before converting. As most of them were outstanding or good, and
many were selective schools, it's a little difficult to understand
how changing the status of the school will increase already high
results to any significant degree. As far as free schools are
concerned, they are new organisations. It will be difficult to
judge whether they have raised standards because there is nothing
with which to judge their achievements.

Even if results do rise, it will be difficult to prove whether this
is anything to do with conversion or whether schools were improving
in some other way. As PriceWaterhouseCooper found in 2008 - when
schools improve they use similar methods which have nothing to do
with the type of school (eg academy or non academy).

And yet still Mr Gove says "Free Schools are driving up standards
across the country." It is derisory to think that the 24 free
schools, five of which already existed, have in three terms put a
bomb under standards in the other 20,000 schools.

Yours faithfully,

J Downs

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