Stories + Views
The best performing schools in London are Local Authority funded community, voluntary aided and foundation schools
A study published by CentreForum shows that nine London boroughs – Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, Redbridge, Barnet, Hackney, Camden, Sutton and Tower Hamlets – rank amongst the 10 best local authorities in England for the quality of their state schools.
The study examines the educational attainment of public sector schools in London compared to the other major regions of the UK, for pupils at GCSE level, taking into account key pupil characteristics such as poverty, ethnicity, language and gender.
The analysis reveals while pupils in London perform no better than those in the rest of the country on average, once equivalent pupils – of the same income background,
ethnicity, language and gender – are selected, London’s pupils perform better than those in all other regions of the UK.
This analysis is unique because it looks at how well schools educate those from the poorest background, one of the most important differences between London and the rest of country being that pupils in London are from disproportionately poorer backgrounds than those from the rest of the country.
Exact figures and statistics can be viewed on the report itself, but some findings are worth highlighting here:-
• For the measure of five GCSE’s including English and maths, the best performing schools are NOT academies but voluntary aided, foundation schools and community schools, all of which tend to do well outside London as well. Academies in London perform better than those outside London.
• The tougher measure of the English baccalaureate favours more advantaged children. Whilst London poor pupils seem to do particularly well for all three measures of GCSE performance and at all percentiles of poverty, poorer children are four percentage points more likely to achieve the English baccalaureate, whilst the richest pupils are 12% more likely.
• High achievement of children from poor Asian and Chinese families suggest that that “cultural differences or parental expectations” may be more important factors than poverty in influencing pupils’ performance.
• 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.
• Areas in the UK which have academic selection – i.e. grammar schools – perform less well, showing that selection drives attainment down, rather than up.
Michael Gove does not appear to have understood the relevance of this paper, saying that “This study underlines an argument we have been consistently making. Deprivation need not be destiny. There are some superb state schools in disadvantaged areas generating fantastic results, such as Mossbourne Academy in Hackney or Burlington Danes in Hammersmith.”
Firstly, the dataset for the research contains pupils studying for Key Stage 4 in 2009/10, before the coalition came into power, so it is particularly presumptuous of him to use the findings to promote Ark Academy schools, especially in light of the fact that the paper shows the best performing schools are Local Authority schools and NOT academies. Furthermore, the academies analysed are those established under the previous government – newly built, well resourced, regenerative – to replace failing and dilapidated schools. London has a disproportionately high number of pupils at Academies (8% per cent, compared to 5% in the rest of the UK), and a disproportionately low number of pupils studying in Community Schools (37%, compared to 47% in the rest of the UK) while both London and non-London regions have similar proportions of other school types including foundation schools, independent schools, voluntary aided schools and special schools.
Secondly, the paper underlines the importance of taking into consideration “explanations” for a schools success or otherwise, as opposed to Michael Gove’s obsession with a “no excuses” application of one set of rigid and punitive rules over the entire landscape of different schools with different characteristics in different areas of the country.
Thirdly, London has no grammar schools, suggesting that academic selection increases the achievement gap, rather than narrowing it.
The study concludes that there is much to 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. It recommends that some other UK boroughs, where the proportion of poor pupils achieving the GCSE target is as little as half of that for equivalently poor pupils in London would do well to study the education system in London.
Given the commitment and achievements of London Local Authorities and community schools in raising attainment for the most disadvantaged, perhaps Michael Gove would learn something too and stop taking credit for something he did not do.