London schools outperforming the rest of England, but we still need to

29 November 2012

In their latest Annual Review 2011/2012, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) revealed that schools in England are improving but there is still a long way to go.

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(Photograph: Simon Way)

The report, presented by Sir Michael Wilshaw, new Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, highlighted wide variations in the performance of schools across different local authority areas, leading to 'stark' inequities for children in some parts of the country.

In some areas, children have less than 50% chance to access to a good or outstanding school meanwhile others have a 92% chance.

Therefore the likelihood of a family being able to access to a good local school depends to large degree on where they live.

The Local picture

Children living in the boroughs of Barnet, Richmond, Islington, Harrow, Sutton and Wandsworth have greater chance of attending a good or outstanding school. They are amongst the top 10 best performing boroughs in England.

However in Hackney and Haringey only 58% or below are enrolled in a good or outstanding school.

Other interesting findings show that four out of five children living in the borough of Lambeth attend good or outstanding primary schools. And in Newham (one of the most deprived boroughs in England) 75% of pupils attend a good or outstanding school.

London in the top spot

In Ofsted's Annual Review, London occupies a prominent place showing a massive improvement in schools in the capital, with 80% of secondary schools now considered as good or outstanding, compared with 66% nationally.

There is also more good news for the capital as three of the top five best Boroughs in England are in London. Leading the pack is Camden, where pupils are more likely to go to a good or outstanding primary school than anywhere else in the country.

However the positive picture is not continued at sixth form and further education where improvement is not evident and London is lagging behind.

The National picture

On a national level, there have been interesting improvements as well as challenges still there to face, especially in places like Oxfordshire, East Riding, Coventry and Derby.

According to Ofsted's report, the portion of schools rated as good or better has increased slowly but steadily from 66% to 70% in three years. There are also nearly 1,000 more outstanding schools and across England 70% of schools are rated good or outstanding, against 64% five years ago.

On the other hand, in Oxfordshire just 59% of pupils attend a good or outstanding school, while in East Riding the figure is 55%. Both areas have also fewer poor pupils than the national average.

While half a million more students are receiving a better education than was the case five years ago, there's still almost 2.3 million children -nearly a third of pupils- in schools deemed "not good enough", the report noted.

The current challenges

In the Ofsted report, Sir Michael Wilshaw emphasized two big challenges that the country still need to face:

  • "The gap between the achievements of children from disadvantage backgrounds and the rest remain stubbornly wide".
  • "Our school performance in relation to the rest of the world. In my view, in terms of education and skills internationally, 'Education England' is not yet on the medal podium but is picking up pace".

The chief inspector highlighted "I have learned what a difference schools make when everyone pulls in the same direction, with children's needs and interests at heart. It is leadership that drives improvement by creating the culture and ethos needed to push up standards".

He believes that headteachers and principals now have more power and autonomy than ever before to raise standards. They have the freedom to do what they believe is best, so it's important they use this freedom to improve the education system.

Ofsted's Annual Report it's underpinned by the findings of nearly 25,000 inspections carried out in schools, early years and childcare, services for children and families, adult learning and skills, and colleges between September 2011 and August 2012.

To find the full report click here.