UK: London’s diverse ethnic population explains the success of its schools

londoneffect-articleLondon’s diverse ethnic population is the reason for its pupils achieving significantly better GCSE results than the rest of England, according to a new study published on 12 November.

This study from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation(CMPO) at the University of Bristol looked at GCSE data for the whole of England to understand what lies behind the ‘London Effect’ – a term used to describe the high levels of attainment and progress of pupils in the capital.

The London Effect is large: the report shows that pupils in London schools score about eight GCSE grade points higher than those in the rest of England, relative to their attainment at age 11. For example, this means achieving eight Cs rather than eight Ds, or eight As rather than eight Bs.

Evidence in the study shows that this is explained by the ethnic composition of pupils in London. Once ethnicity was taken into account in the analysis, the London Effect in pupil progress disappears.

Previous research from CMPO showed that white British pupils achieve the lowest GCSE scores relative to their attainment at age 11, which this study confirms for 2013. Combined with the fact that this group make up 34 per cent of Year 11 pupils in London compared to 84 per cent in the rest of England, researchers say the background to the result is clear.

Professor Simon Burgess, who carried out the research, said: “We know that ethnic minority pupils score more highly in GCSEs relative to their prior attainment than white British pupils. London simply has a lot more of these high-achieving pupils and so has a higher average GCSE score than the rest of the country.

“Many policy makers, school leaders and commentators enthuse about the major policy of the time, London Challenge, and view it as unambiguously improving schools in London. This unanimity carries weight, and no doubt London schools were improved in a number of ways. But so far at least, catching a reflection of this improvement in the attainment data is proving to be difficult.”

The report also looks at the role of the children of recent immigrants rather than ethnicity. Evidence shows that taking account of the number of pupils who are the children of immigrants also accounts for the London Effect.

Comparing Newcastle, where 11.8 per cent of the population was born abroad and arrived before the year 2000, with London, where the number is 34.7 per cent, yields a difference of about 15 GCSE grade points in pupil progress in London’s favour.

Looking back over the past decade, the study shows that there has been a London Effect in secondary school progress since at least 2004, and that it is accounted for by ethnic composition in each year.

Analysis of some different measures of attainment shows that a London Effect is much reduced once ethnicity is taken into account, but remains significant. These include measures that remove vocational qualifications (known as GCSE ‘equivalents’) from the total and measures of very high GCSE performance.

Professor Burgess added: “My interpretation of these results leads to a focus on pupil aspiration, ambition and engagement. There is nothing inherently different in the ability of pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, but the children of relatively recent immigrants typically have greater hopes and expectations of education, and are, on average, more likely to be engaged with their school work. This is not by chance of course. A key point about London is its attraction to migrants and those aspiring to a better life.

“London has a right to be pleased with itself in terms of the excellent GCSE performance of its pupils. These results help to explain the London Effect but they do not explain it away. The London Effect is a very positive thing, and much of the praise for this should be given to the pupils and parents of London for creating a successful
multi-ethnic school system.”


‘Understanding the success of London’s schools’ by Simon Burgess, CMPO Discussion Paper 14/333 published on 12 November.

Via Bristol University News

Articles regarding this study available in:

  •  BBC: Diversity ‘key to London GCSE success’
  • The Daily Mail : Ethnic diversity boost GCSE results: Cities with large numbers of children from immigrant backgrounds do better because they work harder
  • The Guardian: London’s GCSE success due to ethnic diversity in capital’s schools – report
  • The Independent: Hard-working ethnic minority pupils lifting schools’ results as ‘London effect’ takes hold
  • The Telegraph: Schools with large migrant intake ‘get better GSCE results’

Press release: Migrant education policies across Europe: “the most important issue facing European education over the next decade”

BRUSSELS — The SIRIUS Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background has developed recommendations and a clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe that give concrete guidelines on how to improve education systems so as to decrease the achievement gap for all low-achieving students.

According to the Institute of Policy Studies in Education (London Metropolitan University), “migrant education is the most important issue facing European education over the next decade”. While the EU has underlined the importance of education and has set ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results, migrant children are often overlooked in national policy making. This is why we need to highlight successful strategies to effectively implement education policies with targeted measures for migrant students on a systematic level.

Children with migrant background are disproportionally represented among dropouts and the lowest performing percentiles because they have a number of critical, and specific, education needs that are not currently met through mainstream education policy. Yet migrant children form a large percentage of the EU population. According to EU data, 8.3 million young people in the EU Member States (3.1 million under 15 and 5.2 million aged 15-24) were born abroad, while the number of second-generation young adults (aged 15-34) are estimated at over four million. The youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) rates are significantly higher for first and second generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The EU Migrant Integration Indicators indicate that the share of early school leaving among foreign-born learners in the EU is nearly twice as high as among the total population. Eurostat’s 2011 statistical report on Migrants in Europe also shows that the shares are higher for second-generation youth with migrant parents.

The European Union has underlined the importance of education, notably in its 10 year EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU 2020. The strategy sets ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results: reducing school drop-out rates to below 10% (currently at 12%), and ensuring that at least 40% of 30-34 year olds have completed tertiary education by 2020 (currently at 36.9%). The results of the Education and Training Monitor 2014 show that we still have some way to go to achieving these results, and SIRIUS insists that these targets will be achieved only if we focus on reducing the inequalities of access to schooling and quality of education for socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent, in particular for migrants coming from a low socio-economic background.

Updating the agenda on the education of migrant learners may help EU Member States to reach their common targets for a smart and inclusive economic growth and against youth unemployment. For example, the EU’s 2013 report on Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration estimates that closing the gap in early school leaving rates for foreign-born learners would bring the EU 30% closer to its headline target of reducing this rate to 10% and prevent half a million young people from leaving school early, which accounts for 8.7% of all early school leavers in the EU.

“The agenda for migrant education in Europe comes at a critical time. In this time of austerity and increasing migration in Europe we need to be doing more – not less – for migrant learners” commented Miquel Angel Essomba, General Coordinator of the SIRIUS European Policy Network.



  1. The Agenda, recommendations and full list of endorsements can be read at:
  2. SIRIUS is organising a conference in Brussels on 19-20 November 2014 to establish how to make school a success story for children and youth with migrant background: Young people with a migrant background, as well as practitioners and policy makers, will be available for interviews. You can already read some interviews with migrant run organisations working on different aspects of inclusive education on Immigrant Contribution section of the SIRIUS Website:

SIRIUS is a European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background. The project runs over a three-year period (2012-14) and is funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. Network partners include research centres, universities, civil-society organisations and public entities. SIRIUS integrates existing studies and reports on migrant education, updates data and hopes to transform the policy implementation on migration and education throughout the European Union. For more, visit

The Brussels-based Migration Policy Group (MPG) has been active in the SIRIUS Network as Communications Manager since 2012. MPG is an independent non-profit European organisation dedicated to strategic thinking and acting on equality and mobility. Mobility refers on the one hand to geographic mobility and the international movement of people leading to migration, settlement and integration, and on the other hand to social mobility that is hampered by discrimination and is promoted by equal opportunities.  For more on its work, visit

Italy: Ministry of Education establishes a National Observatory for the integration of foreign students

A National Observatory for the integration of foreign students and interculturalism has been established by special decree by the Minister of Education, University and Research, Stefania Giannini.  It aims to identify solutions to implement effective integration policies in schools according to the real needs of an increasingly multicultural society and in constant transformation. The Observatory will be consultative and proactive.  In particular, it shall promote and “suggest” school policies for the integration of pupils with non-Italian citizenship and verify their implementation (including through monitoring), to encourage inter-institutional agreements and encourage experimentation and innovative teaching methodology and discipline. Among the tasks of the Observatory are also to express opinions and formulate proposals on regulatory initiatives and administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education.

via Migrantes Online

Greece: Greek Forum of Migrants (GFM)

logoOn 28 November 2013, I interviewed Moawia M. Ahmed, Coordinator of the Greek Forum of Migrants (GFM). He told me about the work of the Forum generally and what activities they carry out in the field of education.

SIRIUS: Why was the Greek Forum of Migrants set up?

Moawia M. Ahmed meets other local migrantsThe Greek Forum of Migrants is a network of immigrant organisations and communities. It aims at strengthening the self-organisation of immigrants and represents the voice of immigrants and their organisations and communities in Greece, with the objective of equal inclusion and participation in Greek society.

GFM was founded in September 2002. Back then, we – several immigrants from different nationalities, religions and languages staying in Greece – started working together, on a grassroots level, because we realised that we all faced similar challenges. At the time, the issue of legalisation was prominent in Greece and allowed many of the mostly undocumented migrants who had come to Greece in the 1990s to obtain a legal status. The Forum aimed to go one step further. We believe that the stage after legalisation is the process of integration. After all these years, the Greek government, however, is not involved in any measures of integration. Up to now, we do not have any integration policy in Greece. The GFM therefore considers it very important to promote integration and integration policies.

SIRIUS: What are the main activities of the Greek Forum of Migrants?

GFM is the only immigrant organisation that can participate in broad actions. We do not represent all immigrants in Greece but we are the biggest umbrella organisation and can therefore be considered as the most significant immigrant body in the country. The main areas of activity of the Forum are: improving policies; improving the relationship of immigrants and Greek society; familiarising with and continually enhancing multiple stable relations with various institutions in Greece, EU and internationally; strengthening the leadership of the immigrant communities; and developing and implementing programmes aimed at empowering migrants and combating social exclusion. The focus of this and last year has been the empowerment of youth with an immigrant background (the so-called 2nd generation).

SIRIUS: How is GFM run?

The Greek Forum of Migrants now has more than 40 member organisations. Legally recognised migrant organisationsPic2 may become members of the GFM, while informal collectives or migrant organisations still in the process of being established may become associate members. Individuals who wish to assist the Forum in its activities do so as volunteers. As a network, the GFM mainly supports the organised groups and its member organisations but it has also expanded its services through targeted programmes aimed at individual cases.

The Council of Representatives of members is the supreme instrument of participation in the Forum. A seven-member Executive Secretariat designs strategies and makes decisions regarding the operation of the GFM and implements the decisions of the Council of Representatives.

As regards funding, in the scope of short-term funding, we depend mainly on project implementation, either as partners or alone. Acquiring the necessary financial resources remains one of our biggest challenges.

SIRIUS: What does GFM do in the field of education?

There is a wide range of challenges regarding migrant education in Greece and consequently a wide range of activities the GFM is involved in. For the most part, we do not implement any activities ourselves but cooperate with partners. Our role is to assist, counsel and provide information about educational opportunities and the like. For example, we are members of a Committee set up by the Ministry of Education where we deal with issues of language learning. We also act as consultants for our member communities. In many instances, the communities have their own spaces for education, for example to teach the mother tongue language.

Pic3Talking about education, we have to differentiate between the first and second generations who face different situations and challenges. Among the first generation, we also have to differentiate on the basis of gender. 90% of female migrants in Greece are domestic workers, i.e. it is extremely difficult to trace them. Sunday is often their only day off which makes it impossible for them to follow any regular kind of education or training. The needs also vary across different communities. We have established, for instance, that among some communities many people are illiterate. We have therefore adapted our services to cover the needs of these different groups.

The second generation mostly follows the Greek system of education, which does not take diversity into account. Migrant pupils have to adapt to the regular curriculum. They do not receive any official or specialised support from the Greek state. Nonetheless, there are some informal institutions that provide extra-curricular activities and support. Mosques, churches and other institutions (that are not recognised by the Greek state) not only assume religious but also educational functions. Given that many communities often do not possess office or other spaces, mosques and churches offer a place to follow (informal) Greek language, mother tongue language and other classes.

The Greek educational system also supposes that children get adequate support within their homes. Migrant children, however, face additional challenges in this regard because their parents are often not familiar with the Greek language or the education system. The GFM is also working with local schools and parents’ councils in order to inform and involve migrant parents. The municipality of Athens has now adopted this activity and provides possibilities for children and their parents to learn the language and navigate through the education system together.


Finally, education is closely linked to the labour market. Immigrants still face various obstacles in this regard in Greece. Entry into certain professions such as architecture or civil engineering, the so-called closed professions, require Greek citizenship. Migrant students having acquired a diploma in one of these professions are not allowed to take up employment. Furthermore, the first generation struggles with getting their qualifications recognised in the first place. It is important for us to point to these facts in order to provoke improvements for immigrants.

It is because of all these issues that the role of the Greek Forum of Migrants as a consultant and facilitator is so important.

By Katharina Bürkin

Photos (Flickr)