Based on the most recently available GCSE results (2008), there are 32 academies below the National Challenge benchmark of at least 30 per cent. of KS4 pupils achieving five A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths.
An updated figure will be available in January 2010 when the validated 2009 GCSE results are published.
It is worth noting though that a number of these Academies, though just under the 30% threshold, have made significant progress over the last two years. Its very easy to ignore this progress achieved by these schools from very low bases , as it falls below the medias radar, but it is no less significant for that.
Ofsted found in its Annual report that five out of 30 academies visited were “inadequate” – the lowest possible rating. The proportion is much higher than for other secondary schools. The strongly-worded document said inadequate academies showed “weaknesses in strategic leadership” and “have been unable to establish a settled ethos and calm behaviour”. At the five judged to have failed, “there has been too much inconsistency in the quality of teaching to accelerate the pupils’ progress”.
Academies, which have received nearly £5bn in funding since their launch in 2001, have been told by government officials to “tighten their belts” in preparation for the downturn, according to Sir Bruce Liddington, head of a chain of academies and former chief civil servant for the programme. The cost of Academies hss always been an issue with some critics.
However, the Tories intend , if they win power, to build on the Academies scheme with their free schools programme.
Their New Academies will be more autonomous than the current model and the Tories are seeking to encourage parents groups, private sector suppliers, not for profits and co-operatives to support these new schools and to allow good schools to expand.
There are 200 academies currently open, and a further 100 planned by September next year. Academy supporters have worried that since both Lord Adonis and Sir Bruce Liddington have left , the scheme has been lacking focus and that there has been an attempt to reduce Academies autonomy, allowing local authorities to claim back more control, though the Government emphatically denies this.
In terms of Academies performance, its worth noting that of the 63 academies that received GCSE results this year and last, the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs with English and maths, increased by 5.1 percentage points to an average of 35%. The national improvement last year was 2.5 percentage points. Academies are, almost without exception, located in disadvanatged areas with socially deprived intakes, and with above average numbers of pupils on FSM and SEN and often, too, with significant numbers of pupils with English as their second language.
Those who run these schools feel that they deserve to be given just a little more slack from their critics.