Primary pupils test scores improve more at schools that convert to academies

Pupils at primary schools that convert to academies make better progress than their counterparts who attend non-academy schools that later convert to an academy — according to a new study by Dr Emily McDool at the University of Sheffield.

The research looks at the impact of primary academy schools that voluntarily converted to an academy school upon pupil performance. These ‘primary converter academies’ are a product of the 2010 reform to the Academies Programme which allowed all schools, not only the underperforming ones, to voluntarily convert to an academy in a bid to improve educational standards across England.

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 by between 1.1 and 2.6 percentile points depending on the year of academy conversion experienced and the pupil’s cohort.

Pupils in the less deprived areas tend to benefit more from primary converter academies than pupils in more deprived areas. Also attending a primary converter academy has greater benefits for white pupils than non-white pupils and more significant improvements for pupils’ eligible for free school meals.

Overall, the evidence suggests that attending a primary converter academy for up to two years has a positive influence upon the progress of pupils.

The evidence therefore suggests that the Academies Programme, which continues to expand, is beneficial for primary school pupils; however, these benefits are not felt by all pupils from different areas, ethnicities and family backgrounds 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.

Further details can be found at:

McDool, E (2016) The Effect of Primary Converter Academies on Pupil Performance. Department of Economics, University of Sheffield. SERPS 2016013

If you’re interested in contacting the authors of this research then please contact them using econ@sheffield.ac.uk or +44 114 222 5151