SCHOOLS that remain within their local councils in England have continued to outshine those that converted to academies, according to research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA).

A new report, analysing Ofsted inspection outcomes by school type, has found 93 per cent of council-maintained schools were rated outstanding or good as of 31 January 2023, compared to 87 per cent of academies that were graded since they converted.

The LGA, which represents councils, says this is evidence as to why councils should be given the powers to open new maintained schools, and is a reminder of the excellent track record of councils in school improvement and maintaining educational standards. Councils were last able to open maintained schools in 2012.

It is also calling for councils to be given the powers to direct all schools to admit pupils without a school place. Councils are currently unable to require academies to do so.

The report, by Angel Solutions, also found, since August 2018:

  • 72 per cent of council-maintained schools retained their outstanding rating, compared to 60 per cent of outstanding academies that received inspections in their current form and did not inherit grades from their former maintained school status.
  • 40 per cent of academies without grade inheritance fell by at least one grade, compared with 28 per cent of maintained.
  • 57 per cent of academies that were an academy in August 2018 improved to a good or outstanding grade, compared to 73 per cent of maintained schools from the same starting point.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Our research is a reminder of the superb performance of council-maintained schools, and yet further evidence of why councils should be allowed to open their own schools again.

“Academisation can be the right choice and a good choice for some schools, and we fully recognise the positive progress schools that became academies have made. Councils want to ensure that every child gets the very best education and schooling in life. That is why it is vital they are given a central role in providing education and that government recognises councils as the excellent education partner they are.”

Commenting on the report, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “These findings demonstrate the value of a democratically organised and supported school system.

“The LGA’s recommendations are sensible and important. Allowing local authorities to open new maintained schools would boost their ability to respond to demographic changes by opening quality provision. There is also a pressing need for greater local democratic oversight and coordination of admissions. Giving councils the power to direct all schools including academies to take in pupils would make our system fairer and more equitable and help ensure vulnerable pupils’ needs are met.

“The findings also highlight the inherent harm of the Government’s push to full academisation within multi-academy trusts (MATs). This agenda is not at all evidence-led but relies on misrepresentations about the performance of academies compared to maintained schools.

“Academisation has created a fragmented and wasteful school system, with huge duplication of roles and money wasted on centralised MAT bureaucracy. It would be a step in the right direction if the LGA’s recommendations are enacted by this or any future government which is serious about improving our school system and making it fairer and more equitable.”

* Read: Analysis of Ofsted inspection outcomes by school type 2023 here.

* Sources: Local Government Association and National Education Union