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Is London’s Varied Ethnic Composition Behind the Success of its Schools?

UserMark time27 March,2015

In the last few academic years, the secondary schools in London have enthralled the country with excellent results. But a decade ago, the situation was pretty different. The renowned schools of London were under-performing and their achievements were among the worst in England. Some people attribute this success story to the revised government policy while some credit the ambitious ethnic minorities living in London.

Understanding The Success of London's Schools

The education in London and England is governed and managed by the Department of Education and the Department of Business Innovation and Skill. During the end of the last century, the miserable performance of the London schools was recognized and widely reported in the press. According to a survey, only 16 percent of the students managed to gain GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) with only 9 percent pupils securing five good grades in GCSE. The survey also found significant differences in grades between the different ethnic groups.

In the year 2003, the then Prime Minister of England, Tony Blair introduced the aspirational London Challenge. Under the stewardship of the educational secretary, Estelle Morris, the aim of London Challenge was to provide better education to the students. In just two years after the launch, the London schools started to exhibit confident signs of improvement. This project also provided professional guidance to the teachers through a proper training module with sharp focus on those schools which had a varied ethnic pupil population. By the end of 2010, London had the highest proportion of ideal schools than any other part of England.

But is the success story of London Challenge the sole reason behind this outstanding achievement?

Very few people accept this notion.

Almost everyone recognizes the important role of the ethnic minorities behind the success of the capital. The high performing ethnic groups like Indians, Chinese, Africans and Polish has significant contributions. They are regarded as high aspirants who have moved to London with the dream of a promising future. Their excellent academic results have also influenced the whites positively. As a result, London now secures the best place with a comfortable margin.

Tony Hartney, the head teacher of Gladesmore Community School, certifies their contribution. As quoted by the Guardian, he said that particular ethnic groups were more aspirant for their children. Their parents hold education at a very high level and always push their wards to do well in school. He says that this is definitely an advantage.

Gladesmore Community School is one of the schools which followed the London Challenge precisely. One of the most unpopular schools in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it is now putting up excellent results every year. Head Teacher since 1999, Hartney has himself witnessed the gradual evolvement of his school. He also emphasized on the importance of collaboration, practice and strong bonding between the children and staff for their success.

Eminent professor from Bristol, Simon Burgess also concluded about the positive impact due to the varied ethnic composition of London. Regarding London Challenge as “one of the best large scale policies ever”, he figures out that the British students account 36 percent of the total student population in London. But outside London, the figure rises to 84 percent. So, the theory that the ethnic diversity is driving the success story of London should receive its due credit.

However, Kevan Collins, chief executive of Education Endowment Foundation, holds a different opinion. He argues that the reason behind the success of London schools cannot be that simple. If it was, the Asian students residing in Bradford should not have performed miserably. The comprehensive approach towards improvement was the key. Different essential factors were behind the successful completion of London Challenge, he asserts.

People like Simon Burgess wants the policy of London Challenge should be effectively implemented throughout the country. This noble initiative will ensure that every school emphasizes to bring the poorest pupils of their area under formal education.

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