Birmingham’s proposed network of academies will work with “sister” schools to ensure difficulties in other parts of the country do not happen in the city.
A report by the Institute of Education, commissioned by the independent Sutton Trust, claimed academies are not doing enough to work with other schools in their neighbourhoods and therefore not fulfilling one of their objectives.
The review of the government’s flagship academies programme also suggested high exclusion levels at new academies could be having a detrimental effect on neighbouring state schools.
Birmingham is rolling out the first of its six academy schools – with plans for two more academies specialising in engineering and digital media for 14-19-year-olds.
A spokesman for the city council said they were taking steps to ensure concerns voiced in the Institute of Education report would not happen in Birmingham.
“Under the Birmingham model, academies will be strategically sited in one of six area networks of schools,” the council spokesman said.
“All proposed academies are committed to collaboration with sister schools in their network area and all the proposed Birmingham academies are fully supporting the Birmingham vision for an outstanding and appropriate education to all the people of Birmingham.”
The spokesman added the proposed engineering academy on Aston Science Park will be available to students across the city while the proposed digital media academy at Eastside will serve the West Midlands.
The Institute of Education’s report concluded the performance of academies has been “varied” and they may not always be the best way to raise standards.
It raised concerns in 2007 academies had much higher exclusion rates than nearby state schools.
This, it said, “can have damaging effects on neighbouring schools if academies exclude more pupils but do not take excluded pupils from elsewhere in the authority”.
It has been suggested academies have higher exclusion rates when they open as head teachers seek to instil discipline and improve behaviour.
The report recommended academies’ admissions procedures face closer scrutiny to ensure they do not harm the intakes of other schools.
A government-commissioned report found there are three applications for every Year 7 place at an academy.
While academies take more pupils from the poorest homes than other schools, the overall proportion of poor pupils has shrunk, as more middle-class parents are choosing them. Dr Lee Elliot Major, research director for the Sutton Trust, warned: “This is something that needs to be watched closely. It is good academies are attracting a wide range of pupils, but it is important they reflect the communities they serve.
“Poorer pupils deserve the chance to benefit from what are often excellent schools on their doorsteps.”
The report said: “At first sight this data is disturbing in that they seem to support the view these schools have exploited their freedom to recruit affluent and more biddable pupils.”
The authors suggested introducing area-wide “banding” to ensure other schools were not harmed by having a successful academy nearby.
This involves setting an academic ability test for primary school pupils applying for places at oversubscribed academies. The academy then groups children into ability “bands” based on results and offers places to an equal share of pupils from each band.
The report also raised concerns the earliest three academies, opened in 2002, were still not seeing 30 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSE’s, including English and maths, although it acknowledged GCSE results at academies were improving faster than the national average.
The report concluded: “Academies are in danger of being regarded by politicians as a panacea.”