Academies were started in 2000 to alter the fortunes of failing schools that disproportionately served students from some of the nation’s poorest communities. Written by Merryn Hutchings, Becky Francis, and Philip Kirby, this is the second in a series of reports that analyses their effectiveness at helping the most disadvantaged pupils, focusing particularly on sponsored academy chains.
- The Department for Education (DfE) should expand its pool of school improvement providers beyond academy sponsors, including developing new school-led trusts and federations, particularly if it is to address the growing focus on coasting schools.
- New chains should not be allowed to expand until they have a track record of success in bringing about improvement in their existing academies.
- Since our last report, Ofsted has had its ability to inspect chains extended but these fall short of the formal powers they enjoy over academies individually and other education providers. Ofsted should be empowered to undertake formal inspections of academy chains.
- Funding agreements for new sponsors should be shortened to five years from seven. And the government should not renew funding agreements where improvement has not been demonstrated.
- The DfE should include a measure of progress for disadvantaged pupils in their definition of coasting schools, to be applied to all school types.
- Sponsor chains – but especially those needing to improve – should seek out successful practice and reflect on what their own chain could learn from it, and encourage this outward-facing approach among practitioners at all levels within their academies.