Saturday, 26 October 2013

Why are London's schools doing so well?

London's secondary schools have been doing better than those in the rest of the country for some time now. They were already ahead in 2003. But the gap has widened over the past ten years to a chasm. Chris Cook - when he was the FT's education correspondent - was the first to analyse this trend in detail. And he realised that the official Government metrics of performance were actually hiding how far ahead London is.

Since then there's been a growing debate amongst policy wonks about why this is happening. But I think most people - even those in the education sector - still don't realise quite how far ahead London is now; especially for poorer children.

In this post I'll give some stats on how big the gap now is. I'll then question whether this is down to policy or socio-economic change. Finally I'll look at whether - if policy has driven some of this change - what that might mean for the rest of the country.

The size of the gap

The gap between London and the rest on the Government's main measure, 5A*-C including English and Maths, is negligible - 59% nationally and 62% in the capital. But that's actually quite surprising given how many more children on free school meals live in London compared to elsewhere (23% vs. 14% at secondary). When we look at just those children on free school meals we start to get a sense of the difference. In London FSM kids get 49% vs. 36% elsewhere. When you dig into LA level data the extremes are startling. Almost two thirds of FSM pupils achieved the 5A*-C benchmark in Westminster last year compared to less than a fifth in Peterborough (the lowest scoring authority).

But because 5A*-C is a simple threshold measure it obscures how much better London schools are doing for the very poorest. The graph below is taken from the recently published Milburn report on social mobility (in fact it's a variant of a graph Chris Cook did a while ago). It shows that children in London do better at GCSE and poorer children do a full grade better - across all their GCSEs - on average. The rich/poor gradient is much less steep meaning that, while London is one of the most economically unequal parts of the country, the education system is producing more equal results.

The next table is from some internal analysis we've done at Teach First. Here we've looked at only those schools that are eligible for Teach First i.e. those where at least half the pupils are in the bottom 30% of the IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index).

Nearly all secondary schools in inner London meet this eligibility criteria. In other areas- like the South East just a small percentage do. We've compared the GCSE average points score in eligible schools in different regions (excluding all GCSE "equivalencies" and doubling the value of English and Maths). This shows eligible schools in inner London 100 points ahead of the worst performing regions (the South East and South West) which is equivalent to the difference between 6 D grades and 6 B grades.

It's also important to note that this isn't just a GCSE phenomenon down to - perhaps - better gaming by schools in London. Our initial analysis of the DfE's post-16 destination data shows the pupils from Teach First eligible schools in London have about a 9 in 10 chance of going on to further education - around the national average for all schools - compared to about 8 out of 10 in other parts of the country. Poorer students from London are also much more likely to go to university.


Why is there a gap?

For me the big question is whether this gap has been driven predominantly by policy or by socio-economic changes. If the former then it's good news because. if we can work out which policies and how best to transfer them elsewhere, we can help schools in other parts of the country improve. If the latter then it's good for London but worrying for everywhere else as the gap will continue to grow.

There have been a number of policies over the past ten years that have disproportionately benefited London:
  • The Labour Government significantly increased school funding across the country but it increased by a higher proportion in London (which was already well funded - albeit with higher salary costs).
  • The academy programme started in London and the best sponsors, while not exclusively in London, seem to be concentrated there (e.g. ARK, Harris, Mossbourne, Haberdashers).
  • Initiatives like Teach First tend to have started in London even if they were later rolled out to the rest of the country. (If you're in a challenging school in London you won't find it difficult to find a charity nearby offering tutoring or mentoring - in Clacton or Peterborough it's a different story).
  • And the one that people talk about most - the London Challenge - a programme launched by Labour as an umbrella for a number of schemes but which was, primarily, about brokering support between stronger and weaker schools. (See this Ofsted report for a good summary).

At the same time the socio-economics of London have changed massively. Essentially London has got a lot richer while much of the rest of the country hasn't. To illustrate here's some startling stats from a BBC article:

"A recent study estimated that the value of London's property had risen by 15% - or £140bn since the financial crisis began. That increase - just the increase - is more than the total value of all residential property in the north east of England. London's top ten boroughs alone are worth more, in real estate terms, than all the property of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, added together."

And here's a scary infographic from the ONS:

Not only has London got richer. It's got richer in precisely those areas where schools have improved the most. Look at this map discovered by Economist journalist Daniel Knowles. The red areas are those which have gentrified the most over the past ten years; the blue areas have gone "downmarket".

The areas that have seen the biggest change in socio-economic status - Westminster, Southwark, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney - are also the areas which have seen the greatest gains in school performance.

This certainly isn't the whole story behind London's improvement but it's an interesting correlation. The secondary schools in these areas haven't suddenly filled with yuppies' kids, they're nearly all still eligible for Teach First, but many have become more mixed. Moreover, the children in those schools are exposed to very mixed communities, unlike some of the worst performing parts of the country where communities are much more uniform. And those areas have become a lot more attractive to teachers - especially young teachers.

So has policy or economics driven change? Given the lack of in-depth research on the topic all we can is it's a complex mix of factors. The extra money available in London probably helped but it wouldn't have been worth as much without the increased supply of bright young teachers heading towards the capital. Yes lots of charities like Teach First started in London but they did so because that's where recruitment is easiest.

London Challenge is perhaps the most interesting. Many headteachers who were involved will argue it was a hugely valuable experience - though there is little in the way of hard statistical evidence (e.g. comparing improvement in London Challenge schools with other schools in London that weren't part of the programme). But if it did work it was in large part because there was already a supply of excellent headteachers and advisers to provide mentoring and support.

What might it mean for the rest of the country?

The complex relationship between policy and non-policy factors in London mean we have to be very careful about drawing simple conclusions about what might work elsewhere.

It would be easy to say - and many have - let's roll out "challenges" in other regions. But they were tried in Manchester and the Black Country and weren't nearly as successful - perhaps because the necessary concentration of existing expertise wasn't there to make it work. And if it isn't there in Manchester it certainly won't be in coastal towns or dispersed rural areas where we have the greatest problems of underperformance.

Likewise there'll be little benefit to changing the funding system to switch funds from London to elsewhere if other schools can't get access to a ready supply of talented new teachers and the types of mentoring/tutoring initiatives that are so prevalent in London.

That doesn't mean regional placed based strategies aren't worth trying - I believe they are - but they need to be bespoke rather than just attempts to recreate London Challenge.

I get the impression that Nick Clegg's unfortunately named Champions' League of Headteachers is the beginning of an attempt to do this; but busing in new heads won't be enough. If regional strategies are going to be tried in the places that need them most there will have to be a concerted effort to create a sense of collective mission. Existing heads and teachers in the areas of focus will have to buy in; successful heads and teachers from other areas (and especially London) will have to recruited to provide support; charities will have to be encouraged to venture out of their urban hubs and, ideally, educational change will be linked to wider community projects and economic regeneration.

Change happened in London but it already had a lot going for it. Making it happen elsewhere will be a lot harder.


  1. Excellent post. I think the complex range of social factors and systemic school change will never be wholly unpicked, but I think the London Challenge is fascinating and worthy of in-depth study. I think the best point made is that unfortunately we cannot simply replicate that model and expect it to work elsewhere. System change just isn't that simple! Clegg's idea is short termist and, in my opinion, bound to fail.

    We need to grow local leaders from the bottom up, not bus in the experts and hope they will create a whirlwind change before they leave, then hope it sticks. It won't. Much better to identify the most successful middle leaders (I think Teaching Schools and the SLE program could be potent if it becomes coherent and systematic) and especially senior leaders and Heads and have them buddy and nurture local leaders who are much more likely to engender trust and to sustain positive school changes from the bottom up. This of course sounds more like the London Challenge model.

    Even this one strand of improvement won't have the scale to change things nationally. We need to cohere programmes like Future-leaders with such a 'Superheads' programme, with Teachfirst, ITT routes and with Teaching school SLEs etc. I do think that improvement is driven locally and regionally, but I don't think that there is a definitive nexus to drive and cohere the improvement needed. Do we need a quango, I don't know, but we do need the coherence of a 'London Challenge' style programme.

    Of course, extra investment is one strand you identify and it would be absurd not to think professional capital will not require actual capital investment (I know there is a wealth of evidence to show simply investing lumps of money in education doesn't make for transformative change, but to extrapolate that therefore we can continue to cut investment and expect no decline in standards is flawed thinking). Clegg views paying such Superheads a lump of extra money will make the prospect more appealing, but I think the intrinsic motivation of driving improvement in your home area/region has an equal pull.

    As the proverb goes, 'it takes a village to raise a child'. I don't think 'it takes a Superhead...' will ever reach proverb status because it will never become a universally acknowledged truth.

  2. Thanks, very interesting analysis and agree with previous comment. I would agree that teachers are the key differentiating factor, which isn't surprising. Heads clearly need to motivate their staff/students and ensure the operational side is running effectively to facilitate this. But you still need the right teachers to come to your school/community and be provided with incentives that suit them e.g. good quality accommodation and an expectation that their own children will do fine in the new area. When I say 'right' I am also thinking of certain independent schools admitting that their teachers aren't necessarily the best to be parachuted into another part of the city/region which has more challenging circumstances. Finally, there is the thorny issue of whether you need these teachers to be subject specialists or child psychology experts or a bit of both, and how you persuade some of them to become administrative leaders, yet still allow them to devote time to teaching in the classroom and mentoring less experienced colleagues. This with all the pace of education reform going on around them. Seems a big ask to me.

  3. Excellent and thought provoking post Sam.

    Forgive the anecdotal response - because I don't have statistics to back this up but I'd be astounded if they didn't.

    One of the things I think you neglect to mention is the impact of immigration on London results. Many students in the last ten years have moved to London, particularly from Europe, often at the latter end of primary school, with poor English but a decent all round education. Their results on entry to secondary schools (in particular) are therefore heavily depressed. As their English has developed, and many London schools have great EAL provision for this, they have been able to access the curriculum in other subjects (particularly the Sciences) and give the appearance of amazing progress in those subjects.

    Of course, most of these students are also Free School Meal students, which may further distort the picture. And in addition, students who come after the end of Year 10 are "freebies" - ie they count in the figures if they achieve but are discounted if they don't.

    I'm sure you know more about the intricacies of this than I do, but it occurs to me that the influx of EAL students from Eastern Europe over the last decade or so might have a significant influence on the trend you discuss.

  4. Hi Sam, really useful blog, thank you.

    One question though. You say that 'It would be easy to say - and many have - let's roll out "challenges" in other regions. But they were tried in Manchester and the Black Country and weren't nearly as successful - perhaps because the necessary concentration of existing expertise wasn't there to make it work.'

    The City Challenge wasn't *as* successful as the London Challenge, but the latter was incredibly successful. According to the London Met's analysis of City Challenge: 'The number of schools below the floor target
    showed a significantly greater reduction than was the case in the rest of England.'

    I think that is a great result, even if not as good as in London, as so we should think about rolling out the programme but - as you say- thinking about how to tailor it to different locations.


  5. Property Training gives you proper ideas and gives you the confidence to solve any types of problems in your life.
    But before taking any type of training you should be very careful, as it is going to create your basic knowledge
    about property management. The team that’s you are going to follow is needed to be experiences and should have proper
    knowledge about your life and future.

    Progressive Property Mentoring
    Property Mentoring
    Property Training
    Property Education
    London Property Mentoring
    UK Property Mentoring
    UK Property Education

  6. Stuart: Chris Cook found that immigration explained only about a fifth of the London's success relative to the rest of the country.


  7. You should remember one thing that, this is not a matter of one thousand dollars.
    This is about millions. UK Property Education is especially needed as it’s a very
    hard place to invest. Without any mentor you are actually wasting your time in different
    types of tutorials. They are not going to give you the opportunity to work practically.
    To fight with the world of the property you should be very careful before investing your
    very own money in the business. That’s why UK Property Education is needed for you.

    Progressive Property Mentoring
    Property Mentoring
    Property Training
    Property Education
    London Property Mentoring
    UK Property Mentoring
    UK Property Education

  8. Very nicely written, you have tried to bring out a unique definition of Restoration and Renovation. Thank you for sharing with us

    london property management

  9. Great info. I will bookmark your blog and follow your future content. So I adhere to this site for collecting some important and useful article for post and sharing with some of my friends. student accommodation leeds

  10. Thank you for your time and effort to summarize everything for the audience,. I am truly learning from your experience. Thanks again for useful resource.

    Durham student pad

  11. [url=] Durham student pad[/url] - the gateway to the best [url=] London student accommodation[/url] throughout the UK. Helping [url=] Manchester student homes[/url], flats and private halls in the UK.

  12. I shall now enrich your life by sharing with you about GCSE tutors in manchester. In depth analysis of GCSE tutors in manchester can be an enriching experience. While it has been acknowledged that it has an important part to play in the development of man, GCSE tutors in manchester is featuring more and more in the ideals of the young and upwardly mobile

  13. If you want a cab this is a must visit blog for you!!
    taxi tunbridge wells

  14. Underestimate become a model london at your peril. Cited by many as the single most important influence on post modern micro eco compartmentalize, spasmodically it returns to create a new passion amongst those who study its history. Inevitably become a model london is often misunderstood by the over 50, who are yet to grow accustomed to its discombobulating nature. Complex though it is I shall now attempt to provide an exhaustive report on become a model london and its numerous 'industries'.

  15. ssues surrounding become a model london can never be over analysed. The constantly changing fashionable take on become a model london demonstrates the depth of the subject. While it is becoming a hot topic for debate, several of todays most brilliant minds seem incapable of recognising its increasing relevance to understanding future generations. It is estimated that that become a model london is thought about eight times every day by the upper echelons of progressive service sector organisations

  16. If you want Best student apartments in Manchester you can contact feel free.
    thanks for share this blog. . . . .

    Student apartments in Manchester | Best student apartments in Manchester

  17. Dear users! When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us!!!!

    Cheapest student apartments in Manchester | Closest student accommodation to Manchester University

  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  19. London's schools doing really so well for the student
    i glad to read this post thank you ...

    Student accommodation close to Manchester University | Student accommodation close to Manchester

  20. Great post, I appreciate you and I would like to read your next post

  21. its really great story thanks for your information about London schools .
    That's why lots of student want go London its really cool place for stay and study .

    | Best student accommodation in Preston
    Cheapest student accommodation in Preston | Liberty Living Preston

  22. Nice post, I like your post about Home Improvement London. Thanks for sharing this.

  23. i like your post that to much great.
    if somebody need any type of information about peaceful place to feel free contact us.
    Best student accommodation in Huddersfield | Where can I live close to Huddersfield University

  24. Love it! I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work Thank yo so much for sharing this kind of info- Schools in Kingston

  25. this is an informative post review. i am so pleased to get this post article.
    i was looking forward to get such a post which is very helpful to us.
    keep it up.

    Student apartments in Preston | All inclusive student accommodation in Preston
    UCLAN student accommodation

  26. Great blog Great info. I will bookmark your blog and follow your future content. So I adhere to this site for collecting some important and useful article.Thanks for sharing......

    Student accommodation in Sheffield | Student accommodation close to Sheffield University

  27. The best essay writing service is helpful when it comes to writing an essay or preparing any other type of academic work. I like the publishing, thank you for sharing!

  28. really such a important article to represent about London's secondary schools have been doing better. thanks for providing knowledge.

    L href= Student Accommodation in Chester | Brand New Student Studio Apartments In Chester

  29. It has been well initiated with better provisions of interest and values and surely for the future help them to proceed further. medical school personal statement length

  30. This post is truly inspiring. I like your post and everything you share with us is current and very informative, I want to bookmark the page so I can return here from you that you have done a fantastic job .

    student accommodation in leicester

    student accommodation in manchester

  31. London's secondary colleges are doing higher than those within the remainder of the country for a few time currently. They were already ahead in 2003. however the gap has widened over the past 10 years to a opening. Chris Cook once he was the FT's education correspondent was the primary to analyse this trend well best assignment writing service.

  32. I really impressed after read this of some quality work and informative thoughts . I just wanna say thanks for the writer and wish you all the best for coming!.
    Academic Writing Services uk
    Assignment Writing services uk
    thesis writing services uk
    Essay Writing Services

  33. Writing a radiology personal statement or any other personal statement takes your huge amount of time and that is the reason you look for professional help. Try this website for the best help.