Last week, the University and College Union found an exciting new way of illustrating the north-south divide. The union’s researchers used government figures to rank mainland Britain's parliamentary constituencies by the percentage of their working-age population without a qualification to their name. The resulting coverage focused largely on the notion that there are 'two Britains': one smart, educated and go-getting; the other, well, not.
But if there are two Britains, there are two Londons, too. So we decided to use the same figures to locate the city's educational blackholes.
London as a whole is comfortably above the national average – just 9.9% of the population have no qualifications, compared to 11.3% nationwide. All the same, the figures for London reveal a vast educational disparity. In Brent North – that's the Kenton/Wembley/Sudbury bit – just 1.9 % of all adults don't have any qualifications, making it the best-educated constituency in Britain. At the other end of the spectrum, over in Ilford South, a whole fifth (20%) are lacking.
Some words of warning about all this. The measure used is a crude one – plotting the number of graduates, say, or coming up with some measure for 'average educational achievement' could produce very different results. The figures also say very little about school performance: better educated people tend to be the most mobile, and the figures for, say, Islington probably say as much about educated people moving in as they do about the schools there popping them out.
Nonetheless, looking at the map, certain patterns do start to emerge. Unsurprisingly, the most educated constituencies (or rather, the least under-educated ones) tend to be the plusher areas: the leafy green suburbs of Barnet and Bromley, or the more Richard Curtis-y bits of inner London.
At the other end of the scale, however, the areas with the largest unqualified populations – the darker bits of the map – aren't the inner city ones, presumably because of the large transient professional populations that have moved in over the past couple of decades. (Hackney South & Shoreditch, where 18.9% of the population don't have a single GCSE, is a rather uncomfortable exception to this.)
Actually, the least educated areas tend to be the slightly less fluffy suburbs, to the north east and far west. The chunk of the city carved out of Essex does particularly badly: east of the River Lea, every constituency performs below average, and the entirety of the London Borough of Newham is painted black. Some of the constituencies in this area contain some relatively wealthy suburbs – Chingford, Woodford, Upminster; all are solid Waitrose territory – so it's a little surprising to find them dragging their heels at the bottom of the table.
Perhaps similar areas in other parts of the city are being pulled up the league tables by ambitious immigrant populations, something that's in relative short supply as you move further east. Or perhaps The Only Way is Essex is having a bigger effect than we thought.