If a school becomes an academy are the results more likely to improve?

It's a key question in the debate about whether all schools in England should be forced to become academies, but the answer often seems frustratingly unclear.

An independent education data firm has carried out an analysis in an attempt to get an answer.

SchoolDash created a sample of secondary academies and local authority schools with similar characteristics to see how their exam results compare.

And the short answer is: Sometimes academies do better, sometimes not.

So what's the problem with getting a more definitive answer?

Almost two in three secondary schools in England are now academies - but it's become a term that is applied to very different types of school.

It's like using the same term to describe football teams in the promotion and relegation zones.

About 70% of secondary academies are known as "converter" academies - and these schools were usually doing well before they became academies.

For these academies, the SchoolDash analysis says there is no discernible pattern of any impact on results.

Based on raw averages - and because of the greater numbers of converter academies - this wouldn't show much of a positive story for overall academy results.

But there is another smaller group of "sponsored" academies, often drawn from schools in need of improvement.

Rather than look at these two types of academy together, this analysis treats the sponsored academies separately, and this finds a more positive impact.

Timo Hannay, founder of SchoolDash, says these schools on average do seem to make greater progress in GCSE results than local authority schools with a similar intake of pupils.

NUT conference
Image caption The NUT's conference this Easter voted to challenge the academy plans


Taking a sample of schools which converted to academy status between 2010 and 2012, there were 3.6% more pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths than comparable local authority schools.

There is also a greater improvement among disadvantaged pupils.