London

by Thomas Hale

Fears of an incipient housing bubble in London – and concerns about the UK property sector in general – are soaring as quickly as the prices themselves. But not all bubbles are created equal – especially when it comes to first-time buyers.

How might rising house prices affect first-time buyers? The graph below shows the average UK house price compared to how much of the average take-home pay first-time buyers spend on repayments.

The most striking thing about the graph is the way price correlates so strongly to the stretched nature of first-time buyer households until mid-2009, at which point the two lines start to move in opposite directions. Prices have begun to go up again, but first-time buyers have become consistently less stretched across the UK. Read more

(c) Getty Images

By Henry Foy

Ten things to know about the 48 hour London tube strike that began last night:

1. 3.4m people use the tube every day, according to Transport for London (TFL). Not today they didn’t.

2. The strike is all about jobs. Boris Johnson and TFL, which runs the Tube, wants to close all tube ticket offices by 2015, at a cost of 750 jobs.

3. TFL say the public support the plans. Eighty-two per cent of respondents to their survey backed the move to close ticket offices, it said. But the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, which is taking part in the strike, said a survey it commissioned found 65 per cent of tube users felt industrial action as a last resort was justified.

4. Forty-three stations, or 16 per cent of the total station network, were completely closed on Wednesday morning, TFL said. Read more

Emily Cadman

What would the UK capital look like if you mapped its amenities only using open data? This image, created as a piece of art work for the London Open Data Summit, offers one answer.

 Read more

Kate Allen

It’s often said that London is “full up”. But is this true?

At 8.3m people – more than 13 per cent of the total British population – London is booming. Many fear the pressure this is putting on services, infrastructure and housing. Heathrow airport is struggling to keep up with demand.

But the population of London isn’t that big, in relative terms – it isn’t even at a historic high. Read more

Chris Cook

Today, I gave a brief presentation – based on our previous stories – on the performance of London schools to the excellent Centre for London. Some slides are a little mysterious without my burbling over the top, but I hope it’s understandable enough.


Kate Allen

London cable car

(c) Bloomberg

The latest weekly passenger data for London mayor Boris Johnson’s Thames cable car is out – and it’s not good.

The cable car (sponsored by Emirates, and thus officially known as the Emirates Air Line) launched last summer and was billed as a new route for the city’s frazzled commuters, as well as a tourist attraction and a catalyst for regeneration in the areas it serves. It crosses the Thames between the Greenwich peninsula and Silvertown, to the north of Canary Wharf.

The cable car cost £60m to build and will cost Londoners £6m a year to run (Emirates has contributed £36m in sponsorship, spread over 10 years). It can carry up to 2,500 people an hour in each direction* – the equivalent of 30 buses. That equates to a maximum capacity of 65,000 people per day, or 455,000 a week (for comparison London’s busiest Tube line, the Northern, carries nearly a million passengers a day).

But TFL’s passenger figures show that the cable car isn’t getting anywhere near that level of use. On average our calculations suggest it may be* running at just 7 per cent of capacity. Read more

Chris Cook

Today is league table day, when school exam results are published. The most interesting part of the table is the bottom: 195 schools* are below the government’s “floor targets”. These schools are risk of being taken over by a third party to turn them around (if the process is not already underway).

Schools in this category have fewer than 40 per cent of their pupils get Cs or better in English, maths and three other subjects. They must then also have fewer than 70 per cent of the schools’ pupils making “expected progress” in both English and maths.

A few system-level observations:

  • London does really well. Really well. Only 11 of its schools are below target. Only four are in inner London. The outer boroughs are now a bigger educational problem than the inner city.
  • None of the 164 selective schools was below the floor. Grammar schools cruise to the floor target, because they select bright kids. But some might repay a visit by the inspectors: three of them made less-than-expected progress in English.
  • About one third of failing schools are sponsor academies already. The DfE has yanked on the convert-to-academy lever a lot already. But there are another 132 schools left below the floor target not already attached to sponsors.
  • The academy chains are not going to find it easy to take them on. The best academies are all in London. The worst schools are not. There is limited really good improvement capacity in chains outside the capital, where it is needed.
  • The converter academies were not all good schools. Already, there are 14 which are not meeting the standard. The DfE’s terror of sorting out struggling academies is going to become an ever-bigger problem.

And here is the data: first, what type of schools are below the floor target. For the neophytes, voluntary-aided and -controlled schools are the two types of English religious schools. Foundation Schools and CTCs are types of schools with more independence from their local authorities than others (both are precursors to the academies). Studio Schools and UTCs are types of employer-led school (see here for more on them):

School type Above target Below target
Sponsor academies 249 63
Converter academies 666 14
CTCs 3
Community schools 897 72
Free schools 5
Foundation schools 475 33
Studio Schools 1
UTCs 2
Voluntary aided 399 11
Voluntary controlled 64 2

Second, this is where the struggling schools are. I have broken this down by the GCSE-age school population, which brings out some of the variation in regional school quality more clearly.

GCSE pupils in above-target schools GCSE pupils in below-target schools Proportion of pupils affected
East Midlands 41,799 4,490 9.7%
East of England 56,847 4,054 6.7%
London 71,817 1,746 2.4%
North East 25,450 1,782 6.5%
North West 70,592 4,802 6.4%
South East 78,976 5,113 6.1%
South West 50,789 1,736 3.3%
West Midlands 57,328 3,194 5.3%
Yorkshire and the Humber 51,500 4,359 7.8%

 Read more

Chris Cook

On the Today programme last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, announced that Ofsted, the inspectorate, will start trying to piece together which local authorities are good at driving school improvement and which are weak.

This plan, intended to focus fire on local government, could end up drawing attention to the Department for Education. This is because Sir Michael will hold the local authorities to account for all local schools – including academies, independent state charter schools.

On the radio, he was up against David Simmonds, a Tory councilor from Hillingdon representing the Local Government Association, who pointed out that there is a particular problem with academies. He noted that academies, which now constitute half of all secondaries, answer directly to civil servants in the DfE – not to their local authority.

As a result, Mr Simmonds correctly pointed out that, councils have no power to sort things out when it comes to academies. Sir Michael replied, also rightly, that good local authorities do it anyway. The way that this works is that they lobby the DfE to take action. As it happens, a few days later, the TES reported that the pressure from the DfE on academies might soon become a bit more active.

But there remains a problem for local authorities if the DfE is slow-acting. This has been happening with Islington – one of the fastest improving boroughs in the country. Islington has urged the DfE to act on a struggling academy in the borough – the City of London Academy (COLA) – for some time. The COLA case study demonstrates that this can drag on and on. The department has been pestered about the school constantly.

We have some DfE officials’ notes on COLA from a year ago. Originally written for ministers, the notes explain the background and their position. Some betray a touch of irritation about the persistent London borough. Read more

Chris Cook

This week, I have written a fair amount about England’s schools, and how well the capital does. I thought that today, I would publish some data that will help explore some finer differences: how well do children do at a borough level?

Below the fold, I have worked out the FT score for each child (a score based on their performance in English, maths and three other GCSEs). I then ran a regression through the data, which predicts performance based on background and by local area.

This is, in effect, a similar exercise to the one in benchmarking school systems, and has all the same caveats. But this time around, the objective is to get a steer on how levels of attainment vary in different boroughs for an individual child of similar social circumstances. Read more

Kate Allen

London is widely known for being a city of immigrants – famously, a third of its residents were born abroad. It’s not quite so well-known as a city of emigrants. But, at least within the UK, that is its role.

According to internal migration data recently released by the Office for National Statistics, London sees by far the greatest population loss of all the English regions. 242,000 people moved out of London in 2011. When offset against those moving to the capital, this resulted in a net loss of 40,000 people.

Flow of people Read more

Chris Cook

A big story we have published records the stunning improvement in London’s schools that has taken place over the past decade (also: analysis on the topic).

As part of the number-crunching I did for to that story, I can also provide an update from our measure on social mobility in schools – how much does poverty damage your school results? It’s not good news, alas.

Last year, we reported that our educational mobility index had been rising for five consecutive years – from 2006-10. Unfortunately, this year, things deteriorated a little. That blip upwards in 2010-11 means poverty exerted a bigger influence on the school results of children in 2010-11 than it had in 2009-10.

As a reminder, for those of you who have not committed these things to memory: we measure this through quite a simple metric. First, we draw our old friend, the Graph of Doom, which shows how exam results interact with poverty:

To come up with this graph, we divide the country into hundredths, by their neighbourhood deprivation. Then we plot each grouping’s average score on the line, according to a simple performance measure (which I’ve tweaked since we last did this). Read more

Chris Cook

Grammar schools are a seductive idea: skim off high performing children at the age of 11 for education together. At the moment, there are 164 such schools in England, in a few counties which did not manage to slough them off. But their success is a myth. Read more