At the end of last month the Deputy Mayor of London with responsibility for education launched a new scheme for excellence in London schools which will inject over £24m into them over a period of 2 years. I attended the LSEF launch event at City Hall and expect to go to a further workshop this month explaining more about applying for the scheme.
The big question raised by the initiative is: “What kind of excellence do we Londoners really want in our schools?”
There is evidence that London is already doing well on average compared to the rest of England based on certain educational performance measures. Some of these need to be treated with caution, as with all attempts to evaluate learning outcomes and generalise across schools, though perhaps the UK should copy China, which only allows data on its best performing city (Shanghai) to be published in PISA assessments – results from last year’s PISA tests already confirm there is exceptional practice going on as also indicated in this simultaneous post by ‘headguruteacher’, Tom Sherrington.
This focus on the top of the league tables neglects the fact that educational excellence varies at local levels within a system and depends on a range of criteria, some of which may be more significant in one locality than another.
The appendix to the LSEF prospectus gives examples of longer term outcomes from projects, which are divided into 3 categories. I have selected one from each category which I think is interesting and might show variation based on a range of local factors (in brackets):
- Category of teachers and teaching: more robust evidence base for, and understanding of, those subject-led professional development outputs/work streams/interventions that have the most impact on teaching quality (types of subject, level of teacher expertise and range of identified training needs)
- Category of pupils: improved employment and further education outcomes for pupils from LSEF schools (extent of post16 provision, availability of different types of employment, social mobility and special educational needs)
- Category of schools and the wider system: better understanding of the critical features of successful subject knowledge focused networks (extent of access to high quality education research and professional subject expertise).
To my mind this links up with the role of localised strategic education partnerships. They need to ensure, through local schools and other key education stakeholders working together on common goals, that real benefits to young people accrue from such outcomes.
Some of this may ultimately involve cross Borough projects highlighting live case studies that may (or not) be transferable between different parts of London.
All of it must withstand, by pushing up a rising ceiling of aspiration, a downwards pull to the lowest common denominators of London society.
This could be quite a challenge if London politics gets in the way of educational good intentions.