AN initiative to boost attainment levels in London schools which is being looked at “with interest” by the Scottish Government, has been welcomed by politicians.
Nicola Sturgeon said the London Challenge, introduced south of the Border in 2003, has led to “sustained” improvements in pupils’ performances, and stressed ministers would not shy away from learning lessons from such a scheme. The First Minister said tackling educational inequality would lie at the heart of her government’s agenda for the rest of the parliament and, if re-elected, the SNP’s next term in office.
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The Scottish Conservatives said the announcement was a “welcome admission” that wide-ranging reform of the nation’s school system was required, adding that the “one size fits all approach” was failing children.
Writing in The Scotsman’s sister paper, Scotland on Sunday, she stated: “Longer term, we have to think differently and challenge the accepted ways of doing things if we are to successfully achieve our goal.”
The London Challenge was launched by the then Labour government at Westminster. It reportedly saw a dramatic rise in standards by encouraging collaboration between schools across the city. Similar programmes were later extended further north in England and they were collectively identified as City Challenge.
According to the National Union of Teachers, various characteristics of the challenge were central to its success – including its aim to improve all schools across each area, not just the lowest attaining; its encouragement of innovative approaches; and the notion that schools could learn from each other.
In her article, Ms Sturgeon explained: “We will have no truck with the ideological nonsense of Michael Gove and the Tories, but we will not shy away from learning lessons from initiatives such as the London Challenge. It has seen real, sustained improvements in attainment and we are studying it with interest.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “Longer term, we have to think differently and challenge the accepted ways of doing things if we are to successfully achieve our goal.”
Yesterday Liz Smith MSP, the Scottish Conservative spokeswoman on young people, said: “At last this is a welcome admission from the Scottish Government that there needs to be radical reform to the school system. This is something which the Scottish Conservatives have been calling on for decades.
“The blunt evidence has been plain for all to see for a very long time: namely that the current system of ‘one size fits all’ is failing far too many children, especially those from poorer backgrounds.
“Education experts are united in their call to have more diversity in our schools – that they work best when headteachers have autonomy and when they are responsive to the needs of pupils and the choices made by parents.”