FT: London's state secondaries now best in the country

The FT has published an analysis of six-years of data from English secondary schools, which shows London's secondary schools are now the best in the country and the gap in attainment between rich and poor is lower in the city than anywhere else. The paper says:

There is nothing bog-standard about London’s comprehensive schools these days. After years of policy interventions, the capital’s long-maligned school system has now pulled ahead of those in the rest of the country...

The capital leads the country in standardised tests at the age of 11. And more of its state-educated pupils meet the national benchmark – good GCSE passes in English, mathematics and three other subjects – than any other region.

Comparing children like-for-like, the gap grows. The share of FSM-eligible children from London getting straight As or better in English, maths and three other subjects is double that of the other regions – and triple that of Yorkshire and the Humber.

Anyone who brings up kids in London is well-used to being lectured by irritating and seemingly oblivious out-of-towners about how they "couldn't bring up kids in London" with the state of the capital's secondary schools the number one explanation offered. So this is a nice rebuttal to that myth. It's also interesting to consider the explanations given by The FT for the improvement, namely that London has married investment with educational reform, including the Teach First programme (which places top graduates in to schools), Academies and most importantly, "the London Challenge" - a programme of targeted interventions in struggling schools that ran between 2003 and 2010. Most of the improvement has been achievement by raising London's tail of poorly performing schools, by improving existing facilities rather than creating new ones:

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, told the Financial Times last month: “I’ve been a London teacher all my life. It wasn’t a good place to be in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s; now it’s one of the top performing parts of the country through London Challenge.”

The paper notes that only one area of the capital falls in to the poorest-performing category - "a tiny speck of Lewisham."