Monday, 9 January 2012

London Schooling: lessons from the capital!

Everyone should read the CentreForum report 'London Schooling: lessons from the capital' which was flagged up at the North of England Conference in Leeds last week and received some interesting coverage in The Sunday Times yesterday.

It is a hugely important report, highlighting the gaps in the educational performance of young people in the UK by region, ethnic group and other characteristics. It reveals, as some of us have known for a long time, that young people in London appear to perform particularly well compared to those in other regions of the country.

"There are striking differences in the academic attainment of pupils, depending on their individual circumstances. For example, pupils from the most deprived areas nationwide are significantly less likely to achieve the expected outcome measures at school than those from richer households. Similarly there are striking gaps in performance between pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, with Chinese and Asian pupils tending to out perform black and white British pupils. It is therefore very important to take account of the differences in pupil and school characteristics (where possible) when comparing the performance of pupils across regions. Furthermore, this evidence underlies the case for a pupil premium, directing money towards pupils from the poorest areas."

"Finally, it may be the case that Government initiatives directed at London, have been responsible for London’s apparent advantage. One such initiative is the ‘London Challege’, a school improvement programme that was established in 2003 to boost outcomes in low-performing secondary schools in the capital. The programme offered these schools support from education experts, including mentoring by current head teachers and extended coaching at ‘teaching schools’. Whilst establishing a link between the London Challenge and the results found in this analysis is not attempted in this paper, work by Ofsted found that since the introduction of the London Challenge, secondary schools in London have performed better than schools in the rest of England. The results of the programme seem to indicate that policies aimed at creating good teachers and good leaders are very important for success in education."

"Whilst further research is clearly needed to fully explore the reasons behind the educational success of schools in London, it is clear that there is much to be proud of in London – particularly in boroughs such as Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham which are responsible for educating some of the poorest children in the country, and in which pupils over-perform relative to their backgrounds – and much that other areas could take lessons from. In some boroughs of the UK, the proportion of poor pupils achieving the GCSE target is as little as half of that for equivalently poor pupils in London. With lessons to be learnt and young lives to be improved, these boroughs would do well to study the education system in London." 

We need to use evidence based research to discover what works and why. Our constant challenge is to learn from the best; locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. We also need to address consistency, expectations and create a culture of excellence and success where we value and celebrate the achievements of all our schools... wherever they are.

If you want to read this excellent report celebrating what has been achieved in some of the poorest communities in the country and not simply some negative and destructive headlines you can find it at

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