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ERIC Number: ED529848
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May
Pages: 109
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 44
Are England's Academies More Inclusive or More "Exclusive"? The Impact of Institutional Change on the Pupil Profile of Schools. CEE DP 125
Wilson, Joan
Centre for the Economics of Education (NJ1)
State sector education policy in England aims to deliver raised standards of attainment and equality of educational opportunity by offering fair access to schools for all pupils from any background. During the lifetime of the previous Labour government (May 1997 to April 2010) a key policy tool used to tackle entrenched low levels of academic performance among state secondary schools in areas of decline has been the school renewal initiative of the Academies Programme. This scheme was first announced in March 2000 and came into operation in public sector secondary schools from September 2002, with the opening of 3 renewed schools in that year. By end-April 2010, a total of 203 Academies had been established. In its original form, the Academies Programme has involved the rejuvenation of a failing secondary school through giving a private sponsor the flexibility to adopt innovative approaches in the running of the rebuilt and rebranded institution. In this paper the effectiveness of the Academies model of school improvement through institutional transformation is assessed with specific reference to whether the scheme has been capable of delivering inclusive access for disadvantaged pupils in poor areas (aim (3)). Empirical evaluation looks at how the pupil profile of Academies changed once they opened under their renewed school type. Pupil-level data contained in the National Pupil Database and school-level data derived from various sources is used to consider (i) how the academic quality and composition of pupils entering year 7 of Academies and (ii) how the whole school composition of Academies have differed from both those in their predecessor versions and in similar schools that did not convert to Academy status. The methodological approach taken is that of a difference-indifferences analysis applied to a sample consisting of 33 Academy schools (five cohorts) and 326 non-Academy schools over an 11 year period of available data, 1997 to 2007. Results indicate that the Academies Programme is failing some disadvantaged pupils, precisely the group the original scheme has aimed to cater for. Academy conversion is associated with a school performance-favouring change in the pupil profile of these institutions, an outcome that is in direct contrast to objective. Key findings are: (1) There is an immediate jump up in the academic quality of pupils entering year 7 of the Academies sample once the policy comes into effect. Academies admit pupils into year 7 with a Key Stage 2 end-of-primary-school attainment record that is 2.409 total points higher on average. This is a statistically significant and robustly identified finding that remains even after accounting for a potentially larger pupil capacity in Academies; (2) There is some evidence to suggest that the entry of higher ability pupils to Academies has been made possible by a reduction in intake numbers at the lower end of the attainment distribution. Evaluation shows that once schools converted into Academies they reduced their intake ability dispersion by 0.514 standard deviation units, implying that the attainment profile of pupils entering these schools reflects a more "exclusive" intake; and (3) Intake into Academies has consisted of a lower proportion of pupils from relatively deprived backgrounds, measured by those who are eligible for free school meals. In the Academy years the average percentage of free school meal eligible pupils in year 7 fell by 5.563 percentage points to 38.61% (a drop of 12.59%). Again this finding is statistically significant and remains even after controlling for school size changes in Academies. Taken together, these results suggest that the Labour government's programme of school conversion into an Academy has featured a relative rise in stratification within the schooling system compared to that which went before, implying a worsening of education inequality. Since the Coalition party came into power in May 2010 there has been a marked shift in the direction and core focus of the Academies Programme. All state primary, secondary and special schools throughout England can now convert to Academy status, while secondary schools with outstanding pupil performance in age-16 tests have been able to gain priority fast-track conversion. The outcomes of the original policy indicate the consequences of this revised version. Aspects like independence from local authority control coupled with a continued pursuit of academic excellence may encourage newer Academies to adapt their admissions towards a more homogeneous and advantageous pupil intake, a fragmented situation that would further reduce fairness in access to schools, lowering potential attainment and educational opportunity among disadvantaged pupils in particular. Appended are: (1) Conditions for Free School Meal (FSM) Eligibility and Drawbacks to using FSM as an Indicator of Family Poverty; (2) Schools Sample Construction (3) Correlation Coefficients on School-Level Variables, 1997-2002 Averages; (4) Testing Various Logit Model Specifications; (5) Number of Pupils Entering Year 7 of the Secondary Schools Sample and Their Match to Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 Prior Attainment; (6) Restricting the Sample of Schools to the Common Support Regions--Impact on the T-statistics of Table 6; and (7) Discussion of School Type Changes among Non-Academy Schools and the Types of Schools That Became Academies. (Contains 19 tables, 3 figures and 67 footnotes.)
Centre for the Economics of Education. London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK. Tel: +44-20-7955-7673; Fax: +44-20-7955-7595; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: London School of Economics & Political Science, Centre for the Economics of Education
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (England)