London schools’ success ‘at risk’ if funding is diverted from capital to help other areas

London’s GCSE results had the biggest growth from 2019 (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Archive)
London’s GCSE results had the biggest growth from 2019 (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Archive)

London’s “remarkable” turnaround in school performance will be put at risk if funding is diverted away from the capital to boost other areas, education experts have warned.

The latest GCSE results show London pupils have pulled further away from those in the rest of the country, with around one third of GCSEs taken in the capital given top grades compared with a quarter or less in most other regions.

London had the biggest growth from 2019, the last year that exams were taken, with a 6.9 percentage point increase in top grade GCSEs compared with 4.2 points for the East Midlands.

But experts fear that in order to narrow the gap between London and elsewhere, resources could be redistributed which would hamper the capital’s hard-won success.

They said children in poor parts of London have already been left out of plans to “level up” education after the Government named 55 “education investment areas” which will be prioritised for investment and support, none of which are in the capital.

Jon Andrews, of the Education Policy Institute, said: “There’s a need to level up across the UK, but this should not overlook the need to improve educational outcomes for young people in London too. The capital has some of the poorest areas of the country.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “very concerning” that the gap between London and other parts of the country had widened, but added: “The answer is most certainly not to redirect resources away from London but to ensure that all schools across the country have the funding and support they need to address these educational inequalities.”

He said: “This must be accompanied by more support from the Government for struggling families and communities.

“This is surely what ‘levelling up’ should mean.”

London schools have improved dramatically since the early 2000s, partly due to the London Challenge, an improvement programme that focused on schools sharing good practice.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: “The turnaround in London’s results has been remarkable — from one of the poorest-performing regions it has risen to the very top.

“London students deserve considerable praise for doing so well.” He added: “The brilliance of its results does tend to suggest it is affluent and mask areas of real poverty and disadvantage, which are as much in need of financial support as other parts of the country.

“The Government’s ‘education investment areas’ omit London entirely so money will, in effect, be transferred away from the capital. This will put the great gains that have been made at risk, and while inequalities between the regions may be reduced it will be levelling-down rather raising performance.”

Mr Andrews added: “What is clear is that London wasn’t always ahead in this way, so change is possible.”