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Unexpected school reform: Academisation of primary schools in England

Andrew Eyles, Stephen Machin () and Sandra McNally ()

Journal of Public Economics, 2017, vol. 155, issue C, 108-121

Abstract: The UK change of government in 2010 provoked a large structural change in the English education landscape. Unexpectedly, the new government offered primary schools the chance to have ‘the freedom and the power to take control of their own destiny’, with better performing schools given a green light to fast track convert to become an academy school. In England, schools that become academies have more freedom over many ways in which they operate, including curriculum design, budgets, staffing issues and the shape of the academic year. However, the change to allow primary school academisation has been controversial. This paper reports estimates of the causal effect of academy enrolment on primary school pupils. While the international literature provides growing evidence on the effect of school autonomy in a variety of contexts, little is known about the effect of autonomy on primary schools (which are typically much smaller than secondary schools) and in contexts where the converting school is not deemed to be failing or disadvantaged. The key findings are that English primary schools did change their mode of operation after the exogenous policy change, utilising more autonomy and changing spending behaviour, but this did not lead to improved pupil performance.

Date: 2017
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Working Paper: Unexpected School Reform: Academisation of Primary Schools in England (2016) Downloads
Working Paper: Unexpected school reform: academisation of primaryschools in England (2016) Downloads
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