How do ‘academy chains’ compare to local authorities?

A new report by the Education Policy Institute compares the performance of ‘academy chains’ and the collective performance of maintained schools under different local authorities.

Key findings include:

  • that “what matters most is being in a high performing school group, not being in an academy rather than a local authority maintained school or vice-versa”
  • local authorities in London outperform other areas of the country
  • there are cases of high performance and of sustained underperformance among both local authorities and academy chains

EPI makes a number of recommendations to the Department for Education (DfE) on the back of its findings:

  1. identify academy chains at risk of failure and build sponsor capacity in those areas
  2. allow high performing local authorities to take over schools from underperforming academy chains
  3. challenge poorly performing local authorities and intervene in struggling schools
  4. continue to publish information at academy chain level and consider similar measures for local authorities

The key message appears to be that no one school structure is intrinsically better than another in bringing about school improvement.