The best performing schools in London are Local Authority funded community, voluntary aided and foundation schools

Allan Beavis's picture
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.
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Guest's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 11:54

One of the main reason London Boroughs appear to do better is that parents have a choice. Unfortunately many areas do not have that luxury.
This choice has forced all Schools in a borough to up their game. This is backed up by the London School of Economics study on the Academy effect.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:26

It would have been useful for you to provide a link to this report but here are two links that show your absolute endorsement to be flawed:-

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:51

Guest- Would that be Sponsership Academy or Convertor Academy ?

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:27

The LSE study also pointed out that many of the academies with improving results had actually changed their intake ( which may have accounted for the improvement). There was no proof that other schools had improved as a result of academies - simply a correlation - the improvement of the other schools was much more likely to have been a result of the London Challenge, the remarkable effects of which are usually overlooked although happily not by Ofsted who gave it a glowing report before it was wound up in 2010.

Guest's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 13:08


The academies in the report were mainly those introduced before 2010.
The conclusion was that academies are improving standards in neighbouring schools, quality is contagious; competition drives up standards.
Thanks for highlighting this again.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 13:46

Guest - the LSE report only looked at sponsored academies, as you say. The researchers pointed out that the quality of intake of these sponsored academies improved when they became academies which would partly explain an increase in performance. The researchers also said that the academy effect occurred when schools were “mainly” near an academy that produced “large significant improvements in their pupil performance implying that if the neighbouring schools were near an academy that didn't produce "large significant improvements" the academy effect was not as pronounced.

The researchers also warned that more time was needed to assess fully the academy effect, and it could not be assumed that the same effect would be produced by converter academies which were, at the time the report was issued, mainly outstanding schools.

In any case, it is hard to see how the academy effect will work when most schools are academies. And last year some 40 sponsored academies failed to reach the government's benchmark for GCSE performance. How would the academy effect work in these circumstances?

I’ve had a look at the report cited in the main article above. Whilst it is true that according to the report voluntary aided, foundation schools and community schools perform better than academies the report’s author writes,

“These results, however, must be treated with caution. In particular, the results of pupils at academy schools may be biased downwards on average, since (historically) academies were created to take-over failing schools.”

Furthermore, if you look at the data, then the schools seem to perform better the more autonomy they have with community schools doing least well out of the top performing three.

I’m also slightly puzzled because in the article it seems to state that it is a finding of the report that areas in the UK which have academic selection perform less well, I can see no mention of this in the report and they certainly draw no conclusions about selection.

In actual fact, in the ranking in the report of London boroughs by their over or under performance four of the top ten (Redbridge, Barnet, Sutton and Enfield) contain Grammar Schools. The worst borough in the ranking which has Grammar schools is Bexley which ranks 29th but which still over performs.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 15:59

Charlie - thank you for reminding readers that sponsored academies were created from under-performing schools. Mr Gove seems to forget this - he constantly praises academies for having a larger rate of improvement than other schools but, as you have highlighted, their improvement starts at a lower base.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:04


Thank you for the reminder that sponsored academies created under the last government starts at a lower base. The report reminds us to accept with caution the differences in performance of schools that are not VA, foundation or community including academies in and out of London. I think it is quite clear that its findings show LA maintained schools to be performing better.

Whilst it is true that the report does not specifically draw any conclusions about academic solution, the table showing pupil performance by English local authority shows that those areas with significant numbers of grammar schools perform poorly in comparison to the top London boroughs.

Kent and Lincolnshire, with the highest concentration of grammar schools rank as follows:-

Kent ranks 109, with -2% achievement
Lincolnshire ranks 91, with -1% achievement

Other areas of significant numbers of grammars schools include:-

Medway ranks 110, with -2% achievement
Warwickshire ranks 76, with 0% achievement
Birmingham ranks 39, with 4% achievement
Gloucestershire ranks 50, with 2% achievement
Essex ranks 116, with -3% achievement

Only Trafford and Wirral (at 10 and 11 respectively) perform well. Both these areas do not share the socio-economic, language or ethnic challenges of inner city London boroughs, which makes the success of Hackney (6), Camden (7) and especially Tower Hamlets (10) even more remarkable. These statistics suggest quite persuasively that, although the report did not single out selective schools (they were perhaps included in “other schools types” including academies), areas with high numbers of grammar schools have brought overall attainment down, not up.

Ben’s suggestion that minuscule number of grammar schools in the outer London boroughs may have contributed to their rankings does not pass scrutiny.

Redbridge, an area with 17% FSM) has 2 grammars
Barnet (17% FSM) has 3
Sutton (just 8% FSM) has 5
Enfield (22% FSM) has just 1
Bexley (8%) has 4

None of these areas could be described as boroughs of great deprivation and, although Enfield has 22% FSM, it has just one grammar – Latymer – near Edmonton Green, an area ridden by social deprivation.

The dataset for the report was based on GCSE results of 2009/2010, just before the coalition implemented its reforms so claims of autonomy resulting in better achievement is premature.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:19

Lincolnshire County Council has realised that Lincolnshire secondary moderns are going to struggle to reach Mr Gove's proposed benchmark of 50% of pupils getting 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English. Although the Council doesn't say so, this will also apply to the Lincolnshire Academies who were among the 43 or so below-floor secondary academies in 2010.

Lincolnshire grammar schools cream off the top 25% leaving the remaining 75% to be educated in other schools. These secondary moderns may do a good job with their pupils (like Queen Eleanor School, Stamford) but will never be able to compete with the grammars when judged on raw exam results. And with grammar academies being able to expand, they will take more high-ability pupils from a wider area thus robbing schools which are now comprehensive of their top pupils. And these pupils tend to be the more advantaged.

I heard today, for example, that Bourne Grammar School (academy) intends to increase its 2012 intake by 30 which means the school will siphon off pupils from the nearby Deepings comprehensive (a rare establishment in Lincolnshire) and comprehensives in neighbouring Rutland thereby creating more secondary moderns.

This is despite international evidence that countries which segregate pupils tend to perform less well overall than more equitable countries, and the earlier the segregation takes place, the greater the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged pupils.

It makes the Coalition's assertions that it wants to raise the performance of disadvantaged children appear hollow. And when parents realise that ALL pupils, whether advantaged or disadvantaged, do worse in schools that contain a large number of disadvantaged pupils, then parents are not going to be happy and will start clamouring, as they did in the late 50s, early 60s, for a system which is fair for all children.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:21

The improvement is also based on the use of qualifications that Mr Gove claims are second rate. Looking through last years performance tables it is clear that some of the most 'successful 'academy chains results collapse once the GCSE equivalent qualifications are stripped out.


Thank you for your thanks, but the purpose of my post was not to remind people that the academies "started under the last government started at a lower base" (you had already implied as much in your original article).

The purpose of my post was to highlight a few inaccuracies in the original article such as the assertion without caveat that the best performing schools were not academies and also the misrepresentation of your own opinion as one of the conclusions of the report.

I note in your first paragraph that you still do not with to follow the report author’s recommendation and that you choose to draw a conclusion from the data that the report author says you shouldn’t. Hmm, that reminds me of someone…

Your criticism to my observations about grammar schools and rankings contains a number of inaccuracies which make your inferences far less persuasive. (I assume you are criticising my post as no one called Ben has posted)

Firstly, within the scope of the report we are discussing you need to ignore all the FSM data. The whole point of the report is that it was ranking boroughs after taking this into account and cancelling it out of the performance rankings.

Secondly, you talk about grammar school concentration, but haven’t presented any evidence about it, the picture is far more mixed than you make out. The miniscule number of grammar schools in Sutton (five) is the equivalent to one for every 36,600 of population, while highly concentrated Kent has 1 grammar school to every 43,300 of population. Lincolnshire has 1 grammar school to every 46,900 of population and Essex (with 4 grammar schools) has 1 grammar school to every 430,000 of population. The other London boroughs I originally mentioned do have a lower concentration of grammar schools than all these (with the exception of Essex). Therefore the impact of selection is not obvious on the boroughs rankings which might be why the report’s author did not discuss it or make any conclusions about it and it would be wise for us not to as well.

Guest's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 18:38

This is clearly nonsense as the results people look at include English and Maths GCSEs. Are u saying that Academies have taken equivalent qualifications for Eng and Maths ?
If not can you explain exactly how results will collapse. I note the glee and excitement in your post.

Billy no Mates's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 21:47

Lincolnshire County Council has known for some time that Lincolnshire secondary moderns are going to struggle to reach targets. If they can’t raise targets through hot housing then there’s always backdoor exclusion. Lincolnshire academies have just been accused of discrimination:

Billy no Mates's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 11:39

Six of the 16 Lincolnshire grammar schools have converted to academy status and continue to cream-skim easy to teach pupils to the detriment of secondary moderns. The question should now be asked whether it is grammar school academies that are under ‘investigation’ by the council over the exclusion of children with special education needs:

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 08:54

Charlie - so Lincolnshire has only one grammar school to every 46,900 of its population, does it? And are all of those 46,900 of secondary school age? Hardly. As Lincolnshire has one of the highest proportion of older people (23%), can we expect sprightly pensioners to be beating down the doors of Lincolnshire grammar schools?

Seriously, though, the County of Lincolnshire (separate from Lincoln which is fully-comprehensive) has 53 secondary schools, 16 of which are grammar schools. These 16 cream off the top 25% of Lincolnshire pupils although the Boston grammars will take pupils who have done "less well" in the 11+ tests (which are voluntary) to fill places left empty even after the 25% have been creamed (thereby taking even more higher ability children from other schools). It's hardly surprising that only 28% of the 2010 cohort at Haven High Technology College in Boston achieved 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 12:07

If you look at the GCSE performance tables on the DFE website you will find several appendices , one of which looks at the subjects taken and passed above a C grade in each school. It enables us to look at the five A*- C grades achieved, the five A* to C grades including English and Maths and the five A* -C grades including English and Maths but excluding GCSE equivalent subjects. There are some quite startling drops in performance ( according to last year's table) in some of the most prominent academy chain schools ( and indeed some other maintained schools) when the GCSE equivalent qualifications are removed, suggesting that the quick way for schools to improve results is to focus on maths, English and 1 qualification that is worth four GCSEs. I am not making a value judgement about whether those qualifications are worthless or not, simply pointing out that the government says they are not good enough and fail to offer young people appropriate pathways to further or higher education.
This development has been well documented in recent years, not least by Civitas, hardly a far left organisation, which investigated the curriculum being offered in a number of academy schools and came to the conclusion that it was being degraded in order to improve results rapidly. The Labour MP , and historian, Tristram Hunt, has also taken up this issue.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 17:47

Charlie -

I think the purpose of your comment was not really to highlight what you consider inaccuracies in my post but to put up a defence for both academies and grammar schools in response to a report by CentreForum which credits neither academies nor grammar school but LA maintained schools for raising attainment for disadvantaged children.

In doing so, you align yourself with, and draw more attention to, the sly and mendacious way Michael Gove attempted, in his response to the report, to claim credit for his neoliberal reforms on the back of the academy ticket.

Your enthusiasm to sing out every word in the coalition hymn sheet seems to have affected your ability to grasp that the CentreForum paper goes beyond the Gove-ian method of prejudging schools by a set of raw attainment data by instead factoring in major explanatory factors such as family income background, ethnicity, mother tongue and thereby making their analysis much more robust. So I am afraid we can’t just “cancel out” nor “ignore all the FSM data” since the achievements of LA schools in raising attainment of poor pupils is the key conclusion of the report.

On reflection, I should have been more careful to avoid suggesting a link between the report’s conclusions and the negligible impact of academic selection has on raising standards overall. But then the report itself, whilst not attempting a link between the London Challenge and the results found in their analysis, indicates the programme’s policies aimed at creating good teachers and good leaders (as opposed to Gove’s policies of denigrating and punishing them) may well have contributed to the London success story.

Although the report does not link attainment specifically to grammar schools, the table showing pupil performance under borough nevertheless reveals that boroughs with significant numbers of grammar schools perform poorly in comparison with the non-selective maintained schools in London.

Had the analysis found that the presence of grammar schools, which are also state funded, contributed to raising attainment overall, authorities such as Kent, Lincolnshire and Medway might not be languishing way below the positions of inner London schools. Instead, grammar schools educate a tiny minority whilst entrenching division and inequality and you yourself provide shocking examples of this with your roll call including 1 grammar school in Kent for every 43,000 of population (not all of school age surely, but still breathtakingly elitist) and 1 grammar to every 430,000 of population in Essex.

Had the report drawn the conclusion that grammar schools closed the achievement gap, I’ve no doubt the pro-selection and pro-academy lobby would have trampled over itself to trumpet the news to high heaven in the Torygraph and in the Commons.

Grammars may churn out impressive results for a minuscule number of pupils pre-selected to present no challenges to them, but the CentreForum paper shows that it is the maintained schools in London that are achieving the most for disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

I think the wise thing to do is to stop trying to negate the data and conclusions of a report that does not support your ideology by refraining from flashing up the “inaccuracy” flash card. But I suppose in doing so, you are drawing more attention to the failings of the academic selection and the education policies of the coalition and for this we must thank you heartily.


Thanks for effectively calling me a liar, but you are wrong in your belief of my motives.

In fact I was being my normal pedantic self just trying to find the proof of the matter, so there is really no need to lash out.

There were two substantive errors in your article, one of which undermined the title / conclusion of the entire piece.

On reflection, you have admitted one of them, well done; there is no shame in making a mistake and admitting it. You are correct, you should have been more careful to avoid suggesting a link between the report’s conclusions and the impact of academic selection on raising standards overall. The other error you seem to be holding on to with Govesque tenacity.

I haven’t made any defence of grammar schools in my post, I was pointing out that you can’t draw the conclusions you were trying to (and still are) about the impact of selection from the report. By all means, make other points with other data, that’s fine, but don’t put words into CentreForum’s mouth.

I think the wise thing to do is to stop trying to invent the data and conclusions of a report to support your ideology.

You say, “The London effect – and in particular the role played by its Local Authorities and the schools they directly fund and maintain – should indeed be studied further and its conclusions at least partly applied to underperforming boroughs outside London.” Absolutely, everything else is deflecting from this.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 20:02

There's no point or need to repeat yourself Charlie. I've already responded in full to your assertions. I think you overstate when you claim I effectively call you a liar. Is this a milder form of smear than the "trotskyite", "Socialist Workers Party", "dunce" one used by your WLFS colleague?

I still maintain that had CentreForum found that grammars contributed to raising attainment, they would have said so, in the the same way that singled out community, VA and foundation schools for doing so. Research after research has shown that grammars have not raised standards in education. Neither have charter schools or any either kind of experiment that encourages segregation and selection, so it is a mystery why Gove thinks his expensive policies can work.

the CentreForum paper recommends that policy makers and practitioners should study London's schools carefully. Given that the conclusion is that maintained schools rather than academies have achieved the most, the wise thing would have been not to encourage free market free schools that undermine community schools and equal access to good education for all but then this not something that the Free School/Private School/Selective School lobby or investors would embrace.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 16:56

What particularly interests me as a non-Londoner are the reasons for London's success compared with the rest of the country. The Education Endowment Fund (EEF) looked at below-floor schools in England and found that London had low proportions of below-floor schools. EEF thought this encouraging performance could be due to a large number of "typically higher-attaining South Asian pupils" and programmes such as the London Challenge. This initiative was mentioned in the Centre Forum report as a contributory factor and its importance has been confirmed by Ofsted.

From the perspective of someone outside London, it appears that all London schools are doing well with all pupils including the disadvantaged. Mr Gove attributes this to academy conversion but it is not that simple since London community schools still outnumber academies and the higher London performance was not confined to academies. And it is unfair of Mr Gove to use this higher London performance to accuse schools outside London of "coasting" and failing their pupils without suggesting the reasons for the London effect - apart from the much-touted academy conversion route which, as CentreForum found, has not helped many under-performing schools outside London. In 2010, there were some 42 below-floor secondary academies outside London - I could only find one in a London borough, Greig City Academy in Haringey.

The CentreForum report said more research was needed to account fully for the London effect. This is urgently needed to identify the factors that cause London pupils to perform better than their peers outside the capital. CentreForum, EEF and Ofsted have all highlighted the London Challenge. So what did the London Challenge do that accounts for this better performance? And what strategies could be adapted for use in other areas?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:17

The London effect - and in particular the role played by its Local Authorities and the schools they directly fund and maintain - should indeed be studied further and its conclusions at least partly applied to underperforming boroughs outside London, especially those where grammar schools have widened the achievement gap.

Even Haringey, which Gove is currently demonizing, achieves better results for all its children.

CentreForum places Haringey at position 36, with 71% of pupils in poorest fifth if pupils nationwide and 4% overachievement

Gove is MP for Surrey Heath. Surrey is as position 57, with just 2% of pupils in poorest fifth and 1% overachievement.

Billy no Mates's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 11:53

I'll try again; my posts aren't appearing.

Six of the 16 Lincolnshire grammar schools have converted to academy status and continue to cream-skim easy to teach pupils to the detriment of secondary moderns. The question should now be asked whether it is grammar school academies that are under ‘investigation’ by the council over the exclusion of children with special education needs:

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