London schools continue to constitute an extraordinary ‘success story’. By common consent, the government school system in London achieves extremely good results compared to the rest of England, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds do particularly well.
This was not always the case. As recently as 2001, the region of inner London achieved the worst results in England using national tests for 16 year-olds as the measure. By 2013 the picture had changed totally and students in inner London were doing better than students in all regions outside London.
In 2014 we sought to document and provisionally explain the London transformation, School improvement in London: a global perspective. Since then, much has happened in England including some important changes to the way that school performance is measured. Here, we look at the performance of London schools using the new performance measures and ask the question: are London schools still doing well and outperforming the rest of England? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’.
In 2014, our mixed method approach – using a review of the literature, data analysis and a qualitative enquiry into the perceptions of London stakeholders –identified four promising developments that had taken place in London:
Our 2014 analysis also identified four themes that characterised the London discourse about school improvement during the years of apparent transformation:
In the summer of 2018, we talked to 11 expert witnesses with different perspectives about the London story. Their majority view was that there had indeed been a radical change in school quality in the first decade of the century and this had been sustained in the second decade of the century. The explanatory factors for London’s continuing success that they identified included: success in recruiting and retaining great teachers, highly effective school leadership and the impact of well-designed school improvement interventions.
Our witnesses suggested that there was a degree of capacity and momentum within the school system in London that has maintained the improvement trajectory beyond the period of the initiatives. Key factors that support this momentum for continuous improvement included:
The stakeholders we interviewed also recognised that, in addition to the importance of specific government policies, student and parental aspirations and the distinctive ethnic make-up of the city of London has made a difference. There has been a debate in recent years about the impact of the aspirational culture of some ethnic groups in London. A possible new narrative emerged from our discussions. Students from a migrant background are often highly motivated but this is not enough. Aspirational students need to have their talents nurtured by skilful teachers in the context of schools that are both orderly and nurturing. Schools in London benefit from both some aspirational student attitudes but these have been skilfully harnessed by some highly effective schools.
London schools continue to constitute an extraordinary ‘success story’. By common consent, the government school system in London achieves extremely good results compared to the rest of England, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds do particularly well.Download now
This edition of Successful School Leadership brings in the latest evidence and material to what has remained a popular publication. While the fundamentals of what drives successful school leadership remain the same, new evidence further supports the arguments put forward by Christopher Day and Pam Sammons back in 2016. The growing interest in system leadership that we have witnessed over the last five years also features in this edition, as does a reflection on the expanding body of international literature focused on school leadership in low-income contexts.
This review examines a range of lesson observation frameworks designed for and used in the observation of teaching in mathematics.
This report distils down what others can learn from three decades of England’s approach to school performance data.