Over on his blog at The Telegraph, former director of the Centre Forum think tank, Julian Astle, highlights a report by researchers at the London School of Economics looking into the effect of academies. The findings are good news for supporters of greater autonomy for schools, and one of the (perhaps surprising) conclusions of the analysis is that academies don’t just raise standards for the pupils that attend them, but also for surrounding schools, even as they lose pupils to the new academies.
Here’s what the report has to say on that last point, followed by a brief conclusion from Julian:
“In addition to this, we also find that it is possible for neighbouring schools to experience significant improvements in their pupil performance despite the reduction in the ‘quality’ of their pupil intake. This seems to occur (mainly) in the neighbours of academy schools that experience large significant improvements in their pupil performance. We do not believe that this is a coincidence: it suggests that it is possible for performance improvements in an academy to generate significant beneficial external effects on their neighbouring schools.”
It is hard to overstate the importance of this finding. If the benefits of academy conversion were captured only by those children lucky enough to attend an academy, ministers would need to weigh those benefits against the costs incurred by children elsewhere in the system. But this report confirms what economic theory predicts: that competition raises standards across the board. Finding a way to increase the level of competition in the system should therefore be a key policy objective, even in these fiscally constrained times.
You can read Julian’s full take on the report, and find a link to the document itself, here.