“If you set up a school and it becomes a good school …”

John Rentoul

obama If you set up a school and it becomes a good school ...Taking a break from playing cliché bingo with Barack Obama’s speech (I was going to add “inextricably linked” to the new version of The Banned List, which I am compiling, only to discover that I had added it already), I must find time to record a new study of academy schools (pdf).

The research, by Stephen Machin and James Vernoit at the LSE, finds three important things:

1. Academy status tends to raise pupil performance;

2. It also tends to raise pupil performance in neighbouring schools;

3. And it tends to raise the socio-economic “quality” of the academy’s intake.

The first confirms other evidence, but the second really begins to make the case for competition rather than simply diversity in schools provision. There has been a tendency for supporters of academies to concede the arguments of their opponents, that academies will have a damaging effect on morale and performance of other local schools, but to say that there is no other way except to work school by school to raise standards.

That is true, but the case for academies is even stronger. It turns out that raising the performance of one school encourages teachers and head teachers at other schools to try harder, just as the more confident advocates of academies hoped.

Julian Astle, to whom I am grateful for directing my attention to the study, seems to think that the third point counts against the academies policy. This is, I am afraid, a bad case of Prescottism. It was the Deputy Prime Minister, you will remember, who said:

If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that’s the place they want to go to.

Of course, if an academy obtains better results for its pupils than the predecessor school, middle-class parents will be more likely to want to send their children there. This is success, not failure.

Benedict Brogan reports some encouraging figures today, of what he calls the secret revolution of Michael Gove. I prefer to think of it as the revolution started by Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis, which achieved critical mass in 2008 (when Adonis left the education department) and which is really gaining momentum now.

Changing schools takes a long time. The study’s authors say the benefits they observe have “taken a while to materialise”. But this is a legacy of which the Blairites can be really proud.

Photograph of President Obama at Globe Academy, Southwark: BBC

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  • barabu

     He is right though. Blair would stand trial if we lived by some kind of rule of law.

  • Giles Toman

    Isn’t one of THE major factors in whether a school is “good” in terms of its results, standards of behaviour etc, simply down to the percentage of pupils from better-off backgrounds, and also generally from homes whose parents are interested in and concerned over their kid’s schooling?

    So, if people can choose, inevitably those who care, and have the wherewithal to fight their kid’s corner will gravitate to already “good” schools, making them perform even better. And possibly leaving behind the school that is the default choice for “the rest”.

    When people go on about stopping the middle classes “taking over” the “good” schools, aren’t they largely missing the point? They are seen as “good” precisely because of their intake. If you succeed in massively changing that intake, they may not carry on being “good”.

    It is as everyone goes on about providing “fair access” to “good” schools, ignoring perhaps the single most important reason that they are “good” in the first place – their intake.

  • Charles Barry

    But what law exactly? The ‘I don’t like you very much’ Act 2010?

  • Charles Barry

    Sooo obvious in fact, that there isn’t enough funding being provided by Michael Gove’s Department of Education to set up 20 free schools.

  • BlairSupporter

    I love how all Ye Haters seem to know what a Diety, be there one, will do with Tony Blair in the Afterlife, be there one. When you all get to Heaven, be there such a place, what’ll you do if you find the Hated One is seated on the right hand side of the Deity? Request a transfer?

  • BlairSupporter

    Where is this land in which we live under no kind of rule of law? Do you people ever read what you write?

  • BlairSupporter

    Unlike your good self, who is/are basically too stupid to understand… well, anything much.

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