Pupils at primary schools in England that converted early to academy status made better progress than their counterparts who attended schools that only converted after they had left. That is one of the findings of research by Emily McDool, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society''s annual conference at the University of Bristol in April 2017.
But not all children did as well, according to the study: the switch to an academy benefitted children in wealthy areas, white children and those who were eligible for free school meals, though these effects were consistent across the country.
The author uses test scores at key stages 1 and 2 for 240,000 pupils to analyse the effect of a primary school changing its status immediately following the 2010 reforms that allowed all schools, not only the underperforming ones, to convert voluntarily to an academy. She finds that the newly-created academy''s children moved up between 1.1 and 2.6 percentile points among their peers.
The authors concludes: ''With academy schools now accounting for over 4,500 schools in England, this research assists in expanding our understanding of an educational policy that influences millions of pupils across England.''
Pupils at primary schools that converted early to academies make better progress than their counterparts who attend non-academy schools that eventually convert, according to this study. Pupils in the least deprived areas benefit more from attending a primary converter academy than pupils in deprived areas. Attending a primary academy converter also has greater benefits for white pupils and those pupils eligible for free school meals.
The research looks at the impact on pupil performance of ''primary converter academies'' that voluntarily converted to academy schools during the 2011/12 to 2013/2013 academic years following the 2010 reform.
Using data on a sample of over 240,000 pupils and observing their key stage 1 (age 7) and key stage 2 (age 11) test scores, the study finds that pupils who attend a primary converter academy move up the rank within their cohort, according to their test scores, by between 1.1 and 2.6 percentage points. The magnitude of this effect is dependent on the year of academy conversion experienced and the pupil''s cohort.
The research additionally analyses whether academy conversion is more beneficial in deprived neighbourhoods, relative to less deprived neighbourhoods. It finds that the greatest benefits are gained by children who attend primary academies in the least deprived areas. Similarly, white children benefit more than non-white children, while those eligible for free school meals benefit from academy conversion to a greater extent than ineligible children.
The impact of primary converter academies is analysed by comparing the outcomes of pupils who experienced academy conversion and subsequently attended an academy for up to two academic years, with the outcomes of pupils who attended schools that eventually became an academy, but after the pupil had left the primary school.
Academies were analysed by the year of conversion and within specific cohorts of pupils to identify whether the benefits of academy conversion could be generalised across different conversion years and school year groups. The effect of primary converter academies is found to vary across years of conversion but a beneficial impact on pupil performance is consistently identified.
The research concerns itself with analysing ''primary converter academies'' specifically, which are a product of the 2010 Academies Programme reform, which allowed all schools, not only the underperforming ones, to convert voluntarily to an academy in a bid to improve educational standards across England.
Overall, the evidence suggests that attending a primary converter academy for up to two years has a positive influence on pupil progress. The Academies Programme, which continues to expand, is therefore found to be beneficial for primary school pupils; but these benefits are not reaped by all pupils equally.
With academy schools now accounting for over 4,500 schools in England, this research assists in expanding our understanding of an educational policy that influences millions of pupils across England.
The Effect of Primary Converter Academies on Pupil Performance – Emily McDool, University of Sheffield