A committee of MPs scrutinising the Government’s new legislation to address “coasting” schools was informed by evidence given and research published by the Sutton Trust this month. The committee of MPs from across Parliament heard oral evidence from the Sutton Trust’s Chief Executive Dr Lee Elliot Major before scrutinising the legislation. Both Conservative and Labour MPs cited research published by the Sutton Trust on a number of occasions in debate, showing the strong value placed in the Trust’s work.
The Education and Adoption Bill would compel the replacement of the governing bodies of schools considered to be “coasting” – the criteria for a “coasting school” is currently under consultation. The mechanism to do this would force local authority maintained schools to covert to academy status and partnered with a sponsor, while schools that are already academies could also be placed under new leadership or in a different academy chain. Shadow Education Minister Kevin Brennan criticised the government’s plan to force the conversion of schools into academies, highlighting the poor performance of some academy chains according to the Trust’s research. However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb used the Trust’s research to support the Government’s plans, pointing out that it found the best academy chains outperform local authority run schools.
During the oral evidence session at the outset of the Committee’s scrutiny process, Sutton Trust’s Chief Executive Dr Lee Elliot Major reflected both these arguments. Dr Major commented that “there are some brilliant academy chains that do transform lives” but also that there are many academy chains that have “not done so well”, suggesting that Bill could have a positive or a negative effect depending on whether it leads to the growth of well performing or less well performing chains. Dr Major also said he would have liked to have something in the definition of coasting schools explicitly about disadvantaged children, including how schools are spending the pupil premium to support those children. He also said he was concerned about the progress of disadvantaged pupils in otherwise “good” schools, saying the new accountability measures should also include an indicator that reflects the performance of such pupils.
The transcript showing oral evidence from Dr Lee Elliot Major may be found here.
The transcript showing School Minister Nick Gibb MP’s comments in reference to the Sutton Trust may be found here.
The transcript showing Shadow Education Minister Kevin Brennan MP’s comments in reference to the Sutton Trust may be found here. Similar comments by Labour MP Louise Haigh MP in reference to the Sutton Trust may be found in the transcript of a later session here.
The Sutton Trust research cited by MPs – ‘Chain Effects: the impact of academy chains on low income students’ – may be found here.