Is London’s GCSE success due to ethnic diversity in capital’s schools ?

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untitledAccording to researchers at the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at Bristol University, London’s success is less to do with innovative education policy and more to do with the diversity of the city’s population, and in particular the ethnic composition of pupils in London. Previously it had been asserted that it was the focussing of attention and resources, via the London Challenge, that had helped raise the achievement levels of London’s youngsters.

Professor Simon Burgess, who led the research, said: “It sounds somehow uninspiring and disappointing that the London attainment premium is largely accounted for by demographic composition rather than wholly caused by some innovative policy. I disagree. It can be seen as a story of aspiration and ambition.” This controversial new study has certainly given politicians some pause for thought. The mantra that ‘The London Challenge changed everything’ will itself have to be changed in the light of this report. You can read the Guardian’s account of this story here:


  1. I read the Guardian report but it did not make much sense to me. The London Challenge covered a few years starting in 2003. The diversity counter-explanation would only make sense if there had been a significant change in the level of diversity in the period covered. This seems unlikely and is not even considered in the Guardian report. Also, annoyingly, the Guardian give a link to the London Challenge report, which is not the subject of the article, and does not link the Bristol report which is its subject.

    The summary of the report on the Bristol University website gets us no closer to clearing up the apparent gap in the argument. I hope that someone will read the report carefully and tell us if it remives the gap.

    Estelle Morris’s comments seem to me to verge on incoherent.


  2. Now the Guardian has a second piece on the Bristol University report. This time its by Simon Burgess the report’s author.

    It still doesn’t answer the question I raised. I noticed on the first page of the report the strange claim that “The ‘London effect’ was first highlighted by Cook (2013, for example) in a series of articles in the FT.” Had not people been discussing it rather a lot well before then?


  3. Bit of a discussion with myself here! As I work through the paper by Burgess I am coming to think that his critique has some value. The claims for the London challenge may have been over-blown. A further study of the London Challenge by the IFS adds weight to this view. Is anyone else reading this stuff?


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