Many academy chains in England are struggling to improve attainment for disadvantaged children, a study has revealed.

Research by the Sutton Trust into the impact that academy chains have on attainment for pupils from low-income families reveals that two-thirds of the chains performed below average.

The charity also highlights that few of these academy chains have a transformational impact on disadvantaged pupils within their school community.

In addition, many chains are also struggling to improve attainment significantly among the poorest pupils.

Performing above the national average

Researchers looked at 58 academy chains over five years and found that the poorest children in 12 academies were performing above the national average for disadvantaged youngsters.

However, 38 chains saw their disadvantaged pupils performing below this national average which challenges the assumption that multi-academy trusts or chains will offer disadvantaged pupils the best educational outcomes and are the best way for improving struggling schools.

Started under Labour in 2000, the academies’ programme had the aim of improving the chances of disadvantaged children in areas of social deprivation.

Since then, the Conservatives have extended academies which sees the transfer of control of the schools from local authorities to academy sponsors.

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The myth that academies would boost educational attainment from a disadvantaged background can now be laid to rest as that – a myth.”

‘Academies do not improve educational outcomes or standards’

Angela Raynor, the shadow education secretary, said that academies do not improve educational outcomes or standards for children while ‘government sees them as the solution.’

The National Association of Headteachers’ general secretary, Paul Whiteman, said: “Converting to academy status can be a positive step but this report, and other evidence, shows converting is not an automatic guarantee of better education or lasting improvement for pupils.”

The report writers state: “Our analysis of sponsor academies for disadvantaged pupils shows that while a few demonstrate transformational results, more are struggling.”

The report states it is ‘perplexing’ that the government does so little in exploring the methods used by the most successful chains and have them shared with others.

Multi-academy trusts are helping to drive up school standards

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that growing numbers of multi-academy trusts are helping to drive up school standards by allowing schools to work together and focus on quality teaching efforts.

The spokeswoman added: “The latest key stage 2 performance data shows that a disadvantaged pupil who is studying in a multi-academy trust performs significantly better than the national average in writing and maths.”