Anyone who says they know why London’s schools have improved over the past two decades is a “fibber”, the education secretary has said.
Damian Hinds told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference that the reasons behind the transformation of educational performance in the capital are “much more complicated” than just one public policy programme.
It follows calls from across the sector for moves to replicate success of the London Challenge – the Blair government’s flagship school improvement programme that pumped £80 million into the capital’s schools – elsewhere in England.
Former chancellor George Osborne even set aside £10 million to try to achieve similar outcomes in the north of England, but there are questions about how that money has been spent.
The policy is widely credited as one of the main drivers of positive changes to outcomes in the capital.
Between 2002 and 2013, the proportion of children on free school meals in inner London who obtained five or more A* to C grades including English and maths more than doubled, from 22 per cent to 48 per cent.
Outside London, the proportion of disadvantaged pupils achieving the same metric increased from just 17 per cent to 26 per cent in the same timeframe.
However, Hinds said today that it was a mistake to put successes in the capital to one initiative, and warned the “challenge” for the government was to find out how to replicate the changes elsewhere.
“We’ve had huge success in this country over 15 to 20 years in London schools in particular, and a challenge for public policy has to be to see what you can learn from what has happened in London and spread it elsewhere,” he said.
“Anybody who tells you they know why London has done so well is a fibber, because it is much more complicated than saying there was one particular public policy programme, one particular thing that happened, and we need to try to do what we can to try to understand it.”