Since 1997, there has been a real terms funding increase of ￡900 per pupil in London's schools; capital investment is up from ￡81 million in 1997 to over ￡500 million today; and there has been an increase of nearly 15% in teachers pay. There are 4,100 extra teachers and 13,200 additional support staff across London. Results in London at primary school level have increased dramatically with 75% and 71% now getting to the required standard in English and Maths, still too low but a vast improvement; and a rise in GCSE results from 40% to 49% achieving five good passes, faster than the rest of the country. Of course that leaves half not achieving it, which is unacceptable.
But there is progress. This next stage will involve 290 schools in 2006 becoming specialist schools.
We are moving beyond the traditional comprehensive model of secondary schooling to a specialist system where there is diversity and wider choice and where we try to educate children not on the basis of so-called mixed abilities but with teaching geared to each child's ability.
There are parents, still too many, who feel the schools in their area are inadequate or too few of high quality. But increasing numbers of parents, including middle class parents can see their children well educated within the London state system. The transformation is coming and its beginnings can be seen. There are now truly excellent or good London state schools and many who are achieving extraordinary improvement, like this one here, Sacred Heart, whose GCSE results have gone from 44% in 1996 to 73% in 2003. But there aren't enough and that's the purpose of today.
Our commitment is to take whatever steps are necessary to raise standards, including greater choice into local services - all with the goal of transformation. We are involving independent schools and the private sector in the creation of new City Academies; allowing faith groups, charities, business, voluntary sector and community organisations, including groups of parents, to found new schools where existing provision is weak or failing; and providing more choice post-16 through new sixth form provision.
When in May I launched our strategy for London secondary schools - the London Challenge - I said that what we wanted was an education system in London that was not merely good, but world class.
And I said that we would be judged above all on what we achieved in two areas of London - one north and one south of the river - where the challenges that face our secondary schools are greatest. In both areas, covering five London boroughs - Lambeth, Southwark, Haringey, Hackney and Islington - there is now real improvement. With the boroughs and the schools involved, our ambition is to turn that improvement into transformation.
So, I am here today to launch these five hard-hitting plans for improvement alongside the practical, urgent actions already being taken by each school. This is a programme of real radicalism - a future where the secondary school system will be visibly and permanently different:
First, every school in each of the boroughs will be aiming to become a specialist school over the next 3 years. That is a total of 52 secondary schools. Second, there will be at least 11 academies in the five boroughs. These are independent schools, wholly funded by the state, using innovative teaching methods and the latest technology to raise standards. 4 of these will replace existing schools, 7 will be brand new and there may be more to come. I warmly welcome leading private school North London Collegiate's decision to build a City Academy in inner London. This will enhance state provision and we would be delighted to see other leading private schools opening City Academies to establish more excellent schools in the state sector. This is a path-breaking move in bridging the private/state divide. Third, we expect a further 3 new schools. Each will be established through an open competition, which will allow anyone, including groups of parents, for example, to make proposals to provide the school. For the first time there will be an open contest for new secondary schools. Lambeth is the first LEA to invite contenders to submit proposals since the new regulations were introduced in June. As parents and local groups come forward with their own proposals, this will help to raise standards further and make schools the centre of their local communities. Fourth, every secondary school in these boroughs will be an 'extended school' - offering services and activities for young people beyond the classroom. Three of these 'extended schools' in each borough will offer a full range of services - including health and social services - on site. Fifth, there will be more choice post-16. The plans include at least 7 new sixth forms in schools and academies as well as new provision in sixth form colleges. Sixth, the plans include the rebuilding or significant refurbishment of every one of the schools in the five boroughs. And each plan sets out how local issues will be tackled and includes clear plans for retaining and developing teachers.
I think that any fair-minded person hearing this summary would have to agree that what is set out here is truly transformational. The landscape of education in these areas will never be the same again.
And crucially, they are plans published jointly between Government, the LEAs and the private sector partners involved. They are a shared vision of how to create a world class future in some of the most challenged parts of London. They represent our shared determination to give the best opportunities to all young people.
More than that, they build on change and improvement that has begun, is happening now and is accelerating. This year, for example, Hackney's GCSE results were up by 5.7% - among the most improved in the country. And the other boroughs, too, have seen very significant increases over the last few years, far exceeding national averages. As recently as five years ago, in all five boroughs, fewer than 30% of young people achieved 5 good GCSEs. Typically, results since then are up by ten or more percentage points - well above the national rate of improvement.
Step back fifteen years. A high-profile time for London education, when many people's perceptions were hardening. In Inner London barely more than one in ten young people got 5 good O-levels. There had been little improvement over the previous years. Contrast that with today. Four times as many achieve that level in Inner London and improvement is continuing. A dramatic change. And much of that improvement is recent. Over the last five years, the proportion getting 5 good GCSEs has increased by nearly 10 percentage points in Inner London. Well ahead of the national trend.
That's not just a statistic. That's 2000 lives transformed. 2000 more young people each year who have the chance to succeed in further and higher education.
In Outer London, performance is now forging ahead of the national average. And if you compare schools with similar intakes, London schools now perform better than the national average in every free school meal band.
And it's progress that is accelerating. We are beginning to see, what Tim Brighouse our excellent Commissioner for London Schools, calls 'an achievement culture' developing in London.
But there is something even more important than the progress that has been made. And it's this: no-one I talk to in London education thinks that it's enough. No-one is resting on their laurels. No-one is satisfied. Everyone - heads, teachers, LEAs - wants to do more. Because all of you are driven by the belief that education transforms lives and that every young person deserves an equal right to achieve their potential.
And I believe you're right about that. Right to be proud of what you have done. Right to be determined to do more.
That determination is the most encouraging sign of all.
And because of all this, I believe that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a truly world class system in London. And through the London Challenge, I believe we will seize it.
Beyond these five boroughs the landscape of schooling is changing, as a new specialist system emerges in London to lead the creation of the new specialist system we are driving nationwide.
Over the next five years, we will see 30 new academies in London. By 2006, close to three-quarters of schools will be specialist. There are 29 'full service' extended schools, providing a full range of services to London students and their families. 14 secondary training schools are now taking a leading role in providing training for teachers. There are 23 Leading Edge partnerships up and running - where some of our leading schools share their practice with other schools. At least 15 new sixth forms and sixth form colleges will open over that period. The first is already open.
It is the next stage in a story of investment and reform. The Excellence in Cities programme has brought into 21 London LEAs serious investment in return for serious reform. Learning Mentors have been introduced to schools to support young people to achieve and remove barriers to learning. City Learning Centres provide state of the art technology - both to boost young people's learning and to support training for teachers. Gifted and talented programmes can be found in every school.
Meanwhile, a targeted approach to improving behaviour is already reaping rewards. Learning support units in schools tackle disruption and provide a setting in which those at risk of exclusion can be educated without disrupting others. Through the Behaviour Improvement Programme, Heads are supported to tackle poor behaviour. And pupil referral units mean that where an exclusion is necessary, young people continue to receive a full time education. Truancy is down in London - and for the first time, levels of attendance in London schools are better than the national average. A long way to go but still real improvement.
Meanwhile, the tough and painful decisions have been made - with intervention where there is failure bringing new providers into the London education service.
Of course, none of this would matter without good head teachers to lead schools and good teaching in the classroom. The credit goes most of all to the effective London heads and teachers who make a difference day in and day out in our schools. 279 London schools are receiving a Leadership Incentive Grant - to raise standards and strengthen leadership. And there is a new ￡7.5m package of leadership training and support for London schools.
With teacher vacancies down this year and teacher numbers up, there is significant progress there too.
And because teachers are crucial to our ambitions for London, a new deal for London teachers is at the heart of the London Challenge.
The first part of the deal is the improved pay in place for classroom teachers. In 1997, the most an Inner London teacher at the top of the ordinary classroom scale would be paid without taking on management responsibility was ￡23,379. Now, just six years on, ordinary classroom teachers in Inner London are earning up to ￡35,673 without management responsibility. That will have a significant impact on retaining teachers in Inner London.
Second, because we know that affording a home is a crucial issue in keeping teachers, we have launched a major new housing initiative. It has two parts. The first is that many teachers who have the potential to be future leaders in London's schools, leave London as they enter leadership positions because they cannot afford a family home. For 1,000 of these teachers, we are offering interest free loans of up to ￡100,000 so that they can afford a family home. The second part of the package helps teachers who come to London early in their career, but leave after a short time because of housing costs. These teachers will be eligible for interest free loans of up to ￡50,000.
Too often, excellent teachers come to London, but leave to spend much of their career elsewhere because of the cost of living. This new package of housing support, carefully targeted, will help London to keep those teachers for longer.
The third element of our new deal for London teachers is a new status - the Chartered London Teacher. It is designed to recognise some of the special skills London teachers have and to reward excellence in London teachers. Those achieving Chartered London Teacher status will be widely recognised as highly skilled professionals, able to raise standards in challenging circumstances.
London is a great world city - with world class cultural and sporting resources, world class universities and a business community that is a key engine of national economic growth. We want all of these resources to be harnessed to the benefit of London's young people - so that our capital city provides every opportunity for young people to achieve their best. Over 100 London organisations have already committed themselves to being part of that. And together, we have launched a ten point London Student Pledge setting out a range of opportunities that all London secondary pupils can expect to receive.
In addition, there will be a further focus on developing the gifts and talents of London young people, including through a London Centre for the Gifted and Talented. That will focus on identifying talent, and bringing it on, so that every young person has the chance to achieve their potential.
And we have developed focused work to support groups that currently underachieve in London - especially deprived groups and some ethnic minority pupils. And there is targeted work to tackle some of London's distinctive challenges - like higher levels of pupil movement during the school year.
Taken together, these programmes will mean profound change for London education as a whole. And the change is at its most radical in the five boroughs we are focusing on today. If we don't succeed here, then we won't have succeeded.
This is not overnight change. But it is already underway. Results are up and truancy down. The first three academies in these boroughs are open. From this September, 23 schools in these boroughs have achieved specialist status. The first extended schools will be open by April.
We are determined to get behind the efforts that are creating this improvement. Today we publish agreed plans that set out how we will do so. And in doing so, we will together create a significantly different and better future for our children.