Black and Chinese pupils at sponsored academies were hit less hard by a dip in GCSE pass rates last year than their peers at converter and local authority schools, according to information released by the Department for Education (DfE).
Figures in the Academies Annual Report, released on Tuesday, compared GCSE outcomes for pupils from different ethnic and social backgrounds.
It describes the change in the proportion of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, between 2013 and 2014.
Overall, GCSE pass rates in sponsored academies fell 5.2 per cent compared with a 4.1 per cent drop in maintained schools.
But the pattern was reversed for some ethnic groups.
The five A*-C benchmark for Chinese pupils at local authority maintained (LA)schools fell 7.9 per cent, while the similar scores of Chinese pupils in sponsored academies dipped just 0.1 per cent.
For black pupils the fall was 5.7 per cent in maintained schools compared with 4.3 in sponsored academies.
Converter academies – the schools most likely to be good or outstanding – had the worst drop for special educational needs pupils. Their results fell 3.5 per cent compared with a 2.8 per cent drop in LA schools and sponsored academies.
In her foreword to the report, education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “The 2013/14 academic year has seen new changes to the standards and testing for key stage 4 qualifications to ensure that pupils leave school with qualifications that are of real value and enable them to succeed in the future.
“Secondary sponsored academies that have been open for three or more years have results that are above those of their predecessor schools, even against these new, tougher, standards.”
But a report released on Wednesday by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said there was “no significant link” between academy status and improvements in a school’s GCSE results.
The report found that differences between sponsored academies open for between two and four years and maintained schools with similar intakes were “generally small and mostly not statistically significant”.
However, the report added: “There was tentative evidence of a trend towards greater improvement the longer a sponsored academy is open, which is consistent with previous research.
“However, there could also be competing explanations: the amount of [DfE] funding available to sponsors when a school became a sponsored academy reduced by 83 per cent between 2010 and 2014.”
The LGA called on the DfE to allow councils to sponsor struggling schools.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “For parents, who are far more concerned with the quality of their child’s education in the classroom than the legal status of the school, it is the council that they still turn to for advice and support. However, their current powers to intervene are strictly limited.”