As never before, education policy is being driven by ideology not evidence. Every Government announcement is laden with myths about schools, teachers and our education system.

It’s time to get the facts.

EduFacts aims to challenge Government and media rhetoric by presenting the facts about what’s going on in our schools, our education system and in the teaching profession.

Each EduFacts factsheet presents a series of short factual statements about a topical education issue with the supporting evidence to back them up.

From teachers’ pay to school holidays, from academies to school funding, EduFacts will bring you the facts, not the myths about what’s going on in education.

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  • The Government claims that the 2012 GCSE results show that sponsored academies were improving at five times the rate of non-academies. But sponsored academies are generally those schools whose exam results were lower, so the rate of improvement tends to be higher. When schools with similar results in previous years are compared, sponsored academies do no better, and sometimes do worse.
  • Sponsored academies made up one third of the 195 schools that were below the Government’s ‘floor targets’ according to their KS4 results in 2012. When all academies are considered, a higher proportion (7.8 per cent) was below the floor targets compared to non-academies (6.2 per cent).1 Converter academies’ GCSE results for 2012 actually fell overall. In contrast, results improved slightly in non-academy schools.
  • For those schools whose GCSE benchmark (five GCSEs at A*-C including English and maths) was in the 20-40 per cent range in 2011, sponsored academies’ results increased by 7.8 per cent and maintained schools by 7.7 per cent in 2012 – a difference which is not statistically significant. Non-academies did slightly better in the 40-60 per cent and 80-100 per cent bands and academies did slightly better in the 60-80 per cent band.2
  • Among children with low prior achievement, Professor Stephen Machin and Dr Olmo Silva found that the effects of academy conversion on students in the bottom 10 and 20 per cent of the ability distribution were “insignificantly different from zero – and possibly negative for later [school] conversions…suggesting no beneficial effects on students in academies”.3
  • The Academies Commission, set up by the RSA and education company Pearson, concluded that: “the evidence…does not suggest that improvement across all academies has been strong enough to transform the life chances of children from the poorest families”. It added: “academy status alone is not a panacea for improvement”.4
  • The NUT believes the Government should focus on school improvement initiatives such as City Challenge which are cost-effective and proven to drive up standards. Professor Merryn Hutchings, lead author of the DfE’s evaluation report into the City Challenge programme found that: “The evidence that the London Challenge was a successful approach to school improvement is overwhelming. It was also comparatively cheap; over three years the funding for City Challenge was £160 million, considerably cheaper than the £8.5 billion reportedly spent on the academies’ programme over two years.”5

1 Schools with fewer than 40 per cent of their pupils getting Cs or better in English, maths and three other subjects, and fewer than 70 per cent making “expected progress” in both English and maths. See ‘Failing Schools and top schools’, FT Data blog:

2 See:

3 S. Machin and O. Silva, (2013) ‘School structure, school autonomy and the tail’, in P. Marshall (ed.) The Tail: How England’s schools fail once child in five – and what can be done, London: Profile Books, p. 99.

4 Pearson/RSA, ‘Unleashing greatness: getting the best from an academied system’, p.4.

55 See

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