Both the current and previous Chief Inspectors have wanted the power to inspect multi-academy trusts, but have found themselves thwarted by the Department for Education.
Ofsted instead now carries out MAT summary evaluations, in which a number of schools within a given MAT are inspected over the course of a term or two, with engagement between the inspectorate and the MAT’s leadership at the conclusion of the exercise. In these summary evaluations, Ofsted gives conclusions on the MAT as a whole, but they don’t lead to trusts being graded in the way that schools are.
To date, a fairly small number of trusts have received a MAT summary evaluation, or their predecessor, MAT focused inspections.
So what can we say from looking at the inspection ratings of individual schools within MATs?
MAT league tables
If the point of inspection is to provide accountability then when exploring MAT inspection ratings it makes sense to only look at schools that have been with a given trust for a certain amount of time – giving the trust time to have made its mark on the school.
One way to do this is to borrow from the approach used by the DfE for the MAT league tables which it now publishes.
These MAT performance measures only include mainstream schools that have been with a trust for three or more academic years, on the thinking that that gives trusts enough time to start having a material impact on educational outcomes.
Borrowing the methodology of the MAT league tables offers a number of other advantages. Results are aggregated where a group of schools is structured as two or more academy trusts which have a sponsor in common. And results are weighted by pupil numbers and the amount of time which a school has been with a trust.
What does the data show?
In short, there is wide variation. The two charts below show the mix of Ofsted ratings as at 31 March 2019 for all trusts that featured in the 2018 MAT league tables at either Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. (Note that all-through schools therefore feature in both charts.)
A few things stand out. Firstly, that there are nine trusts that either closed in their entirety or lost all of their schools which featured in the 2018 MAT league tables. Some of these have been high profile closures (Wakefield City Academies Trust, Perry Beeches the Academy Trust, among others); others have been little-noted.
A total of 84 schools out of the 1,883 within the scope of the 2018 MAT league tables have closed or changed trust. (This category includes schools that have had a fresh start after poor performance, as well as one school – the ARK school listed as closed – that merged with another ARK school.)
Setting these schools aside, there is considerable variation in inspection ratings. At primary level, at just over half of trusts – 117 out of 232 – all open schools are rated good or better, but there are 42 trusts where more than a third of pupil places are in schools rated less than good, including 13 trusts where more than half of pupil places are in schools rated less than good.
At secondary level, all open schools are rated good or better at almost two-fifths of trusts – 30 out of 80. However, there are 28 trusts where more than a third of pupil places are in schools rated less than good, of which at 13 trusts more than half of pupil places are in schools rated less than good.
Of course, trusts will all have had different starting points in terms of inspection ratings – some trusts consist wholly or primarily of converter academies, which will generally have started with better inspection ratings, while other trusts contain more sponsored academies, which will generally have started with poor Ofsted ratings. And as we wrote earlier this year, historically at least the median amount of time it took for a school to get from less than a good rating to good or better was more than six years.
To be happy using this approach – of leaning on the MAT league tables, and therefore only looking at schools that have been with a given trust for three or more years – we’d want to see that most or all schools had been inspected since joining the trust.
Looking at this, 345 out of 1,408 schools included in the primary part of the analysis and 27 out of 494 schools included in the secondary part of the analysis have not been inspected since the school joined the trust against which it is reported.
In all cases, though, these are schools rated good or outstanding – so we can be confident that less than good ratings included in the analysis are reasonably recent. The inclusion of historic good and outstanding ratings makes the mix of inspection ratings for some trusts look more favourable than might otherwise be the case.
Relationship with progress scores
We might also wonder what the relationship is between these MAT-level inspection ratings and KS2 and KS4 progress scores.
The charts below show this, putting trusts into bands based on their percentage of schools rated good or better. (One thing to say – these trust-level progress scores are based on all schools within the scope of the MAT league tables, while Ofsted ratings are based just on schools that remain open.)
Even among trusts with the greatest proportion of highly rated schools there is quite a spread of progress scores, but there is correlation between the measures (perhaps more obviously at secondary level).
This may not be especially surprising, given what we know about the relationship between Ofsted ratings and KS2 and KS4 progress scores. Which itself may not be especially surprising, given what we know about the relationship between Ofsted ratings and pupil characteristics such as disadvantage, and progress scores and those same pupil characteristics.
Want to stay up-to-date with the latest research from FFT Education Datalab? Sign up to Datalab’s mailing list to get notifications about new blogposts, or to receive the team’s half-termly newsletter.
1. The Williamson Trust is not included in these figures, and is reported separately, though it is no longer a standalone trust following a merger with Leigh Academies Trust.
2. Which itself may not be especially surprising, given what we know about…You get the picture.