It is often said that London's schools are among the best in the country — this despite many factors that might work against academic excellence. Why should this be? The reasons are tricky to pin down and probably manifold. A new website helps us understand the phenomenon, with more data than you could shake a Gradgrindian cane at.
SchoolDash is the work of Timo Hannay, a father of three with a background in data geekery. He's collected together information from the Department for Education and fed it all into an easy-to-understand mapping interface. It's a statistician's dream, with over 250 different visualisations to explore, across different years and different school types. To take a few illustrative examples, you can view how ethnic diversity differs across the country; the geographical spread of pupils with five or more A*-C grades; the financial pressures on schools; or the percentage of pupils taking free school meals.
The site immediately throws up interesting results for London. Click through the gallery below to see some headline figures.
The project is set to grow. Hannay will add further data sets and attempt to analyse the forest of data through the SchoolDash blog. He's particularly curious as to why London stands out positively in so many of the datasets — a phenomenon that is still poorly understood even by education experts. Is it all down to tangible factors such as school funding and teacher salary, or are cultural influences also at play?
London undoubtedly contains more extra-curricular goodness for children than many of the regions, from world-class museums to public events with an educational bent. Hannay also speculates that the city attracts more of a certain type of adult: "[It could be]...partly because London is full of aspirational people (including parents and teachers) egging each other on. This is especially true in some immigrant and minority communities, which may be why attainment seems to correlate positively with 'English as an additional language' status rather than negatively as one might naively expect."
Have a play with the data sets on SchoolDash and draw your own conclusions.