The government is accused of “misreporting” data to back its academies reforms, with union leaders calling its case for full academisation “flawed”.
The National Education Union has released analysis it claims calls into question the government’s “case for a fully trust-led system”.
The document was published alongside Monday’s schools white paper, which set a target for all schools to be in strong multi-academy trusts, or have “plans to join or form one”, by 2030.
The government claimed that moving underperforming schools into academy trusts had been “transformative”, with more than 7 in 10 sponsored academies now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, compared to around one in 10 LA maintained schools they replaced.
But the NEU accused the government of “systematically misreporting Ofsted grades for many schools”, with data not taking account of schools that have converted since their last inspection.
Its own analysis found that that 90 per cent of maintained schools previously rated less than good improved to ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, compared to 74 per cent of sponsored academies.
And 11 per cent of maintained schools currently rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ were previously ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. In comparison, 28 per cent of sponsored academies were downgraded.
‘Zahawi must respond to this evidence’
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the analysis “renders nonsensical the government’s drive towards academisation in the name of standards”.
“It demonstrates that there is no compelling reason for a school to join a trust. Nadhim Zahawi says he wants to be driven by evidence. He must respond to this evidence and must pause this ideological drive.”
The NEU also accused the DfE of using “small samples” in its analysis of the performance of schools in MATs, given MATs are much smaller on average than local authorities, and said leaving pupil premium data out was “misleading”.
The DfE’s paper claimed that the best MATs “transform outcomes for pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, and deliver improvement in schools and areas where poor performance had become entrenched”.
It claimed that the best MATs outperformed the highest-performing LAs, including for disadvantaged pupils.
But the NEU said the DfE had “re-sorted” its list of MATs to find a “new group of best MATs for results of disadvantaged pupils”.
The analysis also pointed out that the best-performing MATs were less likely to educate poorer pupils than the worst.
Its own analysis found 29 per cent of pupils in the top 10 per cent of MATs based on performance were disadvantaged, compared to 47 per cent in the bottom 10 per cent of MATs.
A higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in local authority schools (53 per cent) than in MATs (51 per cent).
DfE denies misreporting ratings
The DfE denied misreported Ofsted ratings and using small sample sizes, and said the NEU’s analysis “fails to acknowledge that we clearly set out that we were using the data in question to make the case for how MATs help underperforming schools to improve”.
It also denied that not including pupil premium data in its tables was misleading, and said the NEU’s data also showed that “disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils in the best performing MATs get outstanding results on average”.
“The claims made are incorrect and based upon selective data, mispresenting our published evidence,” a spokesperson said.
“We have a decade of evidence that academy trusts can transform underperforming schools.”
But Courtney said the government’s “latest call in the white paper to encourage or force more schools into academy trusts will not achieve what it sets out to do”.