Regional challenges: a collaborative approach to improving education

Regional challengesAnna Claeys, James Kempton and Chris Paterson
July 2014

A little more than a decade ago, pupil outcomes in London were worse than anywhere else in the country. Today they are the best. The school improvement initiative London Challenge has been integral to this transformation.

'Regional challenges: a collaborative approach to improving education' draws on lessons from London Challenge and nine emerging challenge initiatives around the country to explore how regional challenges could best be implemented today.

The report warns that "straightforwardly copying" London challenge is unlikely to generate the same positive results. It says that initiatives must be tailored to a specific place and context.

It also argues that regional challenges today will require a degree of top down support if they are to operate at sufficient scale to have maximum impact and therefore calls on government to provide structured organisational and financial help.

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Read a summary of the launch.

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Minister of State for Schools David Laws MP said: "I warmly welcome CentreForum's report on regional challenges. All our children and young people deserve a high quality education, irrespective of where in the country they live. It is vital that we learn from the successes of initiatives such as London Challenge, so that all areas can work in partnership with other schools and organisations to address underperformance."

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Tristram Hunt MP said: "This is an excellent report - the success of the London Challenge programme at turning round the capital's schools, delivering excellence and high expectations for all learners, and lifting the life chances of disadvantaged children is one the great achievements of the last Labour government. The challenge now, as this report highlights, is to build on that and encourage local collaboration, partnership and challenge across the rest of England. The Labour party has a clear answer - a local Director of School Standards - which we believe will help spread this model and tackle underperformance wherever it lies. We welcome this powerful contribution to an increasingly crucial debate."

Chair of the Education Select Committee Graham Stuart MP said: "The precise causes of the 'London Effect' are complex. But the challenge model is an interesting and important one and this report sets out a strategy to use it to deliver success in other parts of the country. In particular, it grasps the key point that initiatives need to be in place to ensure experienced school leaders are available to share their expertise in the areas where it is needed most."

London Challenge Adviser now London Leadership Strategy, Professor David Woods said: "London Challenge has shown that with ambition, aspiration and a clear focus on raising standards and closing attainment gaps, backed by committed leadership at all levels, an education system can be transformed. Other regions can build on this to mobilise their intellectual, social and organisational capital to produce excellent educational outcomes."

Founder and CEO of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz OBE: "The success of London schools proves that the achievement of young people from low-income backgrounds does not have to be limited by where they grow up. However, understanding the lessons of London is only one part of the puzzle for how we respond to the changing face of educational inequality, particularly considering the unique challenges faced in rural and coastal areas many miles from the capital. We must recognise that wide ranging solutions across society are crucial, and that there is still much more to be done if we want to see long term change and a fair education for all children across the country. Bringing high quality teachers into the profession is fundamental to addressing the educational achievement gap. We were proud to see over 1,400 new Teach First recruits start their training last week, ahead of teaching in schools where the need is greatest from September. We also look forward to supporting similar initiatives to the London Challenge, including the Wales Challenge and Somerset Challenge".