Patrick Wintour in the Guardian highlights the Sutton Trust’s academy chains report in his coverage of the Trojan Horse affair.
The Muslim Council of Britain has warned education authorities “not to be sidetracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”, as it rejected many of the findings of a government-commissioned report that found a co-ordinated effort by extreme Muslims to take over some Birmingham schools.
Some of the most controversial schools in Birmingham were run by chains. More than half of all academies are now part of academy chains, with the largest managing upwards of 70 schools.
The MCB intervention came as the influential Sutton Trust urged the new education secretary, Nicky Morgan, to give the schools inspectorate Ofsted powers to inspect academy chains.
Morgan’s predecessor, Michael Gove, had opposed giving Ofsted powers to inspect chains as opposed to individual schools, but Morgan has said she wants to look at the issue afresh. Some of the most controversial schools in Birmingham were run by chains. More than half of all academies are now part of academy chains, with the largest managing upwards of 70 schools.
The Sutton Trust found that in nine of the 31 chains, disadvantaged students in sponsored academies outperformed the average for those in mainstream schools in 2013. Of these, the best performers based on the proportion of disadvantaged pupils gaining five good GCSEs or equivalent are:
• The Harris Federation, which now has 27 academies and free schools, mainly in South London.
•The City of London Corporation, with three academies around the capital.
• Barnfield Education Partnership, a Luton-based chain linked to a further education college.
•Mercers’ Company, a City-based livery company which has three academies, two of which are also linked to the successful Thomas Telford City technology college in the West Midlands.
• ARK Schools, a chain that now has 27 academies in London, the south-east and Birmingham.
But the report also warns that there are some chains that are highly ineffective across a range of measures, and which are failing to improve the prospects of their disadvantaged pupils. As a result, it says, Ofsted should be empowered to inspect the chains. “Such a move would be reassuring to parents, and ensure independent scrutiny. We also share the Academy Commission’s concern that seven years is too long for unsuccessful sponsors to be left with a school if improvement cannot be demonstrated.”
Read the full article on the Guardian website.