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The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today announced a new education inquiry to explore the critical challenges facing London's primary and secondary schools, including driving up standards, the availability of good school places, and future investment

Although GCSE results are improving, nearly four in 10 of London’s school children do not achieve the level needed for good life chances. The Mayor is concerned that some schools are lowering their expectations of pupils, and not pushing children in core subjects such as Maths and English.

After the August disturbances it was found that over 66 per cent of children involved had special educational needs and a third were excluded from school. In a recent GLA survey, one third of Londoners stated that education and training for young people was their number one priority.

The Mayor hopes the inquiry will raise important questions for the government to consider when allocating education funding to the capital. Some schools are so stretched for space that 11,000 children are being taught in portacabins and the city has experienced a birth rate increase of 25 per cent.

Last week the Mayor and Jules Pipe, leader of London Councils, met with the Secretary of State Michael Gove MP to discuss schools funding, and he welcomed the Government's subsequent decision to award £260m to London to begin to help meet this shortage of places.

The Mayor has asked former teacher and CEO of Generating Genius, Tony Sewell, to scope the format and key issues of the inquiry and a Chair and formal panel will be announced shortly. The inquiry will run for 10 months with an interim report due to be published in February and a final report next autumn.

Key issues will be:

-          How to support schools to continue to drive up standards

-          Meeting the demand for good school places

-          Increasing investment in school buildings and supporting the growth of academies and free schools

-          Encouraging more partnerships between state schools and independent schools, businesses and charitable or cultural organisations

-          Tackling underachievement of particular ethnic groups, boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds

-          Driving school improvement and keeping class sizes to maximum of 30 pupils

-          Increasing take up of key subjects such as Languages and STEM (Science, Technology and Maths) to ensure London’s workforce are skilled for the future economy

-          Exploring the role of vocational education, careers support for future work

-          Provision of after school clubs and supplementary education

The Mayor made the announcement today as he visited the new Haberdasher’s Aske’s Crayford Academy in Bexley.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'Academic excellence and social confidence should belong to all children, regardless of their background. Some schools have cracked the magic formula that brings out the best in every child, regardless of their ability and helps them reach their full potential. We’ve got amazing schools that push some of the most disadvantaged kids into excellent universities and professions, whilst others harvest an intake of enthusiastic kids who steadily lose momentum and ambition. I want our inquiry to ask some tough questions and help cultivate in all our schools the positive energy, discipline and ambition our children deserve.'

Michael Gove, Education Secretary, said: 'Boris is right - London has many great schools but we must all do more to improve standards - especially for children from poorer homes. I know how passionate the Mayor is about making opportunity more equal. And I know that he wants every penny we spend on education used as efficiently as possible - devoted to great teaching. That's why I am so enthusiastic about this review and want to work with Boris so we can ensure every school in London is as good as the best.'

Tony Sewell is an outspoken education commentator and former teacher who is the CEO of Generating Genius, a charity that has successfully placed children from disadvantaged backgrounds into top universities.

Tony Sewell said: 'London is a world leader in science, culture and business, and so our school system needs to keep up the pace. Failure is not an option for any of our children and we need to expect more and raise aspirations. We have some excellent state schools in the capital but our education system is facing some serious challenges today in terms of proper investment, raising aspiration, strengthening discipline and stretching children from all backgrounds. As someone with over 20 years experience in education, including in inner London, I believe this Inquiry is very timely and I am glad the Mayor is making this a priority.'

The Mayor is working on a range of projects to boost young peoples education and attainment including opening three Mayoral academies, plans for an 'Leadership' after school clubs, mentoring disadvantaged young people, and expanding apprenticeships. For more information about what the Mayor is doing to raise aspiration and attainment and improve opportunities for young Londoners go to www.london.gov.uk/priorities/young-people.

Written by Scott Buckler
Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:11

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