Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Scheme to improve London schools is working

The London Challenge school improvement programme set up in 2003, has continued to improve outcomes for pupils in London schools at a faster rate than nationally, according to a report launched by Ofsted today.

Secondary schools in London continue to improve more than those in the rest of England in terms of their exam results. Data on pupil progress show that primary schools who joined London Challenge in 2008 are also improving faster than those nationally.

The report, London Challenge, puts success down to ambitious and focused leadership of the programme; support for London Challenge schools from experienced and credible advisers; effective partnerships between schools in London; and systems in schools which secure the gains by tracking pupils’ progress.

Welcoming the findings, Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector said;

‘I am delighted to pay tribute to the success of London Challenge. Its success is rooted in effective partnerships between schools and the extensive use of practitioners as agents of support and change. It has been impressively led by London Challenge advisers who are very experienced education experts. They know schools well and have kept a very tight focus on improving the quality of teaching. Inspectors identified a strong commitment among teachers and school leaders in the capital to drive up achievement and close attainment gaps with the rest of the country. They expressed their commitment to all London children and saw themselves as being part of a city-wide education service. They are succeeding: results for secondary schools in London have moved from below to above the national average over the life of London Challenge.

‘London Challenge gives bespoke support for school leaders and managers and brokers professional development for teachers in supported schools. As we move into the next stage of the development of school improvement set out in the White Paper, it is vital that the lessons learned from this programme are applied both locally and nationally.’

The report shows that both local authority advisory staff and external consultants can help improve the quality of teaching and learning. Substantial improvements have recently been achieved through partnerships where ‘teaching schools’ have coached groups of teachers from other schools.

Schools that have improved and left the scheme have developed effective systems to track pupil progress and provide effective intervention for pupils at risk of underachievement.

London Challenge advisers have successfully established school improvement partnership boards for schools causing concern, ensured an accurate audit of needs and brokered the resources necessary to meet those needs.

Networks of experienced school leaders from the London Challenge Leadership Strategy, coordinated by London Challenge, have provided much of the expertise to tackle the development needs within supported schools and thus drive up attainment.

A key strength of these leaders has been their skill matching people and schools and creating a sense of mutual trust. School leaders contributing to the survey were very positive that the support was implemented ‘with’ them, not imposed on them.

Notes for Editors

The report London Challenge is on the Ofsted website:

1. The London Challenge school improvement programme was established in 2003 to improve outcomes in low-performing secondary schools in the capital. Primary schools were included in the scheme from 2008. The programme uses independent, experienced education experts, known as London Challenge advisers, to identify need and broker support for underperforming schools. The advisers are supported by a small administrative team based in the Department for Education (DfE). The cost of the support and the services brokered comes directly from the DfE and is spent as the adviser directs. Many of these advisers are also national or local leaders of education.

2. In London secondary schools the average attainment of pupils is above the national average. After the summer examinations in 2010, only four London secondary schools (about 1%) now remain below the floor target. Primary schools that have become partners with London Challenge are also improving rapidly, despite the relatively recent start to their programmes.

3. The contextual value-added measures of the participating schools, taken all together, have risen significantly from below average in 2008 to above average in 2010. This represents real gains in achievement for the pupils in these schools; they have not just narrowed this gap but, on average, their achievement on this measure now exceeds the average achievement nationally.

4. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

5. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6617 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.