During the second reading debate for the Education and Adoption Bill in the House of Lords, the Sutton Trust’s Chain Effects report was mentioned by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Storey, Labour Peer Lord Touhig and Conservative Schools Minister Lord Nash, in making arguments both for and against the Bill.
The Bill is looking address what have been described as “coasting schools” – schools that are not improving fast enough but are not deemed to be failing – by turning them into academy schools. As the Sutton Trust’s Chain Effects report evaluated the performance of academy chains, it helped inform the debate.
Lord Storey, Liberal Democrat, said:
“No doubt the Minister will repeat the mantra that only academies are increasing standards. Perhaps he will cast his eye over the Sutton Trust research, which showed that, compared with mainstream schools, sponsored academies have lower grades and are twice as likely to be below the floor standard. In 2014, 44% of academy groups were below the Government’s new “coasting” level, and 26 of the 34 chains they analysed had one or more schools in this group. When analysed against a range of Government indicators on attainment, a majority of the chains still underperform in respect of their disadvantaged pupils compared with the mainstream average on attainment.”
Lord Touhig, Labour peer, said:
“Unlike the requirement for the Secretary of State to take action in a failing local authority school, there is no requirement whatever for her to act similarly in a failing academy. What is more, there is a lack of evidence to support the idea that academy status will lead to school improvement—not all academies are the success stories that the Minister indicated in his opening remarks. A number of academy chains have been criticised by Ofsted, the Sutton Trust and the Minister’s own department, because it has been shown that they are performing poorly compared with local authority maintained schools.”
Lord Nash, Schools Minister, said:
“We now have enough multi-academy trusts performing really well to know that there is a gold standard out there to which all can aspire. This has been recognised by many commentators, including the Sutton Trust. People such as Outwood Grange, REAch2, Harris, the Inspiration Trust and smaller groups such as WISE and Tudhoe are setting the bar really high. With strong oversight from the RSCs, we will ensure that poor performing groups up their game, and the RSCs are holding many events where strongly performing groups such as Outwood Grange share their experiences and methodology. Outwood Grange’s record is superb. It has been holding a series of roadshows around the country and it has put its entire school improvement methodology on to a memory stick. We want to do far more of this kind of development. The Sutton Trust has said that the best academy chains are outperforming and some are substantially outperforming. The job of the regional schools commissioners and my job is to spread good practice and intervene in failure so that all groups raise their game towards the standards of the very good, and this Bill is about helping them to do that.”