Robert Hill's presentation gave a clear and focused view of the current educational landscape. A former Number 10 policy advisor and current Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Education and Professional Studies at Kings College London, he was able to provide a thought-provoking analysis. You can read more about Robert Hill and his understanding of current, and future, education developments on his blog.
It was striking to note the development and role of academies in that scenario.
At the Regional South East Teaching Schools Council Conference at Twickenham on March 25th he cited the newly released DfE statistical working paper on Measuring the performance of schools within academy chains and local authorities' (issued 19 March 2015, updated 23 March 2015) which has made for interesting reading, not least because of it's discussion of the pitfalls of measuring performance without contextual information.
The document sets out to look at the progress of academy chains since the Academies Act (2010). Thousands of schools are now either sponsored academies or converter academies; however, measuring performance in academy chains is complex, partly because of the type of schools that became academies originally and also because of the difficulties of selecting relevant performance indicators.
It is important that measurement occurs, both in order to provide information for all stakeholders and also to be able to identify the success stories of our school system. This enables school leaders to best manage the available (and likely to be shrinking in real terms after the general election) resources in order to maximise the potential educational achievements of our young people.
Robert Hill noted that academy sponsors are more successful when five criteria are applied: they are geographically focussed, expand slowly, have a clear pedagogical focus, work through clusters and maintain a strong oversight.
At a time when schools are increasingly encouraged to collaborate through Teaching School Alliances, academisation, clusters, MATS (multi academy trusts) and federations it is useful to be able to identify the relevant lessons of the earlier sponsors. For anyone who has yet to get to grips with all the variables around academisation the paper 'Measuring the performance of schools within academy chains and local authorities' (March 2015) is very helpful.