London calling to the faraway towns

An interesting report this morning from IFS and IoE suggesting that the reasons for the improvement in London schools may be more complicated than previously thought (by some).

Some very brief thoughts of my own on why London schools have improved faster than others.

School density.

Consider one of the (very) large differences between London and the rest of the UK:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.07.21

Population density obviously has an impact on school density.

Two factors in school improvement are collaboration and competition. Both these factors, particularly at secondary level are more likely to exist in a era of high school density. Schools are more likely to collaborate when teachers can walk down to road to the other school than they are when the nearest school is an hours drive. Competition can only be effective as a driver for school improvement when there is any.


Immigration has impacted on areas other than London, but given he higher population of London, along with the (relatively) better transport infrastructure where you have a high percentage of EAL students in a school there is going to be a greater chance of finding a teacher who have experience in the home language of those children. Law of large numbers applies.

Impact of LA

Alert. Controversial thought.

In a small densely populated area it is easier for a centrally controlling authority to exert influence and impose strategies. Where that influence is good (or at least benign) as with Literacy and Numeracy hours in primary, because it is more likely to happen in a smaller LA the  strategy is more likely to happen in the intended way and have an impact.


Double Alert. Even more controversial and completely un-evidenced claim.

London is richer than other regions. I suspect that the level of paid for tutoring will be higher in London than in other regions. Tutoring is also aided by the population density – easier to find a tutor and travel to them.

*waits to be corrected by someone with all the statistics*


3 thoughts on “London calling to the faraway towns

  1. Could be pretty much anything, for all this report tells us. We can only say that something was different, and your guess is as good as mine, or anybody else’s, until someone takes the time to research it properly…

  2. For info on Tutoring, I wrote about it here: and quote the Sutton Trust’s parent Power report (

    “As long ago as 2005, the Sutton trust found that 18% (and 34% in London) of 11-16 year olds had had private tuition. In 2010, they found the figures to be 23% (38% in the capital), and last year they reported that 24% (40%) of 11-16 year olds had ever received private tuition.”

    My working hypothesis on the ‘London Effect’ is that it’s mostly down to Pupil Effects (i.e. the children’s own family/motivation/expectation/etc) and has very, very little to do with School Effects. London is so totally different to the rest of England (as the report confirms), and full of people desparate to get on in life, I’m not in the least surprised that it outperforms the rest of the country.

    Does the arrogance of those who assume that achievement is down to school surprise anyone else? It’s the Icing on the Cake, as I may have said before, and that cake matters much more than anything else.

    1. Thanks for the tutoring info.

      I suppose an obvious question is that if the London Effect is largely down to non-school effects then what has changed over time to create the (perhaps perceived) change in student outcomes?

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