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25th February 2016

Pupils in London do worse in maths, science and reading tests than their peers in Shanghai, Singapore or Sydney, according to new analysis by the Institute of Education.

The conclusions of the research were announced in the days following the Chief Inspector’s criticism of school improvement in Manchester and Liverpool.

The study found that 15-year-olds educated at private and state schools in London were about six months behind their counterparts in east Asia and wealthy parts of north America and Europe, and doing no better than pupils of the same age in Belfast and south-west Wales.

The research used data taken from tests used in PISA and compared the performance of more than 1,000 pupils across 42 London schools with their peers in individual cities and regions around the world.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, had challenged politicians in Manchester, Liverpool and other northern cities to lead school improvement by saying they were responsible for underperformance of local schools.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research, Sir Michael said that while deprivation, higher spending and ethnicity were sometimes used to explain differences in attainment in his view this did not explain the performance of pupils in the two cities and some other northern and midland cities.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds fared particularly badly. In inner London, almost half of pupils eligible for free school meals were awarded five good GCSEs last year. In Greater Manchester, just under a third were successful. In Liverpool it was around a quarter and in Knowsley, only 1 in 5 pupils eligible for free school meals achieved 5 good GCSEs.

He said that while some argued higher spending had helped London schools Manchester and Liverpool also had relatively high spending.

Commenting on the argument that the fall in the proportion of disadvantaged white British pupils had improved attainment in London he said both cities were also diverse with a large foreign born population. He added that attainment could also improve in Leicester, where white British students were in a minority.

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