Lewisham and its chronically troubled secondary schools

Primary education in Lewisham is outstanding. It’s a very different story for our secondary schools



As noted elsewhere on this blog, the borough of Lewisham is abysmally served by the press. In a region of London with so much to report upon, both good and bad, there is very little effective probing into the issues that really matter to the residents of the area.

One of those issues is obviously education, a story on many parents’ minds today as secondary school places are announced. While the borough’s primary schools are among the best in the country, its secondary schools are an entirely different matter – so much so that the mayor agreed to the appointment of a Lewisham Education Commission, which compiled a report into the problems facing our secondary schools and suggested the best way forward.

It published its findings in April 2016. It’s surprising how few local parents seem to have heard of the report (perhaps related to the gaping void in media coverage referred to above). Its contents certainly do not pull any punches. Below, there are some of the key passages in the 98-page document, which as many parents as possible in the borough should read. In some instances, the situation has worsened since the time the report was pulled together. For example, the number of pupils going to good or outstanding schools has fallen markedly – Lewisham is now the lowest ranked of all London boroughs in this regard and has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst in the UK.

The extracts below on the state of the schools are without any commentary on this occasion – apart from context or updates – nor the in-depth suggestions put forward in the report for improving Lewisham’s schools. However, I hope soon to have the chance to return to this vitally important subject for the borough, and speak to as many relevant people as possible to find out why the situation is as it is, what exactly the prospects are for our troubled secondary schools – and what can be done to help.

Report findings

Lewisham has the worst GCSE results in London

“The borough’s secondary system sits in stark contrast [with early years and primary education], with average pupil outcomes being far below those for Inner London and London as a whole. Indeed, performance tables for London show the borough’s schools as having the worst GCSE results in London. A much lower than average percentage of Lewisham’s Key Stage 5 students go on to higher education study.

“The performance tables also reveal an issue relating to the attainment of pupils with higher prior attainment. The national proportion of these pupils gaining at least 5 A*-C (including English and maths) has been declining slightly over the last three years. In Lewisham, this proportion has also been declining, but at a faster rate than found nationally.”

Snapshot of Lewisham's GCSE results
Lewisham results fare poorly, both against the rest of London and nationally

Fewer pupils get a “good” education than anywhere else in London

The report stresses the “stark” fact that only 65 per cent of secondary pupils in the borough are in a good or outstanding school.

In fact, the situation has deteriorated, and quite rapidly. Lewisham secondary schools are now towards the bottom of the country (only 10 are below). Only 54 per cent now go to good or outstanding schools in the borough according to the latest Ofsted annual report.

Table of school authorities according to the percentage of pupils in good or outstanding schools
Must do better: the number of pupils in good or outstanding schools is falling (this represents the very bottom of the table)


See the most recent Ofsted annual report for full details

It may not be unrelated that Lewisham is a large net exporter of pupils to neighbouring boroughs at secondary school level.

Poverty isn’t (entirely) to blame                                                   

“Although the challenges of poverty are great in Lewisham, they are no harder than for most other Inner London boroughs. Poverty therefore cannot be offered as a reason for Lewisham’s poor average performance in the secondary sector.”

“Lewisham ranks as the 19th highest local authority in the UK for the proportion of children living in income deprived households, although this proportion is still less than other Inner London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Islington, Hackney, Lambeth, and Southwark.”

Nor are the primary schools to blame

Lewisham primary schools are now ranked equal best in the country in terms of the number of pupils going to a good or outstanding school. See table below. It’s only when pupils join secondary schools that performance starts to decline.

Top of the class: Lewisham primary schools are showing the way

Pupils of all ethnicity are underperforming compared to the national average, Chinese in particular

The graph below is one of the most sobering in the entire report.


Job prospects for Lewisham’s young people are poor

“The proportion of 18 to 24 year-olds claiming Jobseekers Allowance is the highest of any Inner London borough, and is double the UK average.”

Secondary education in Lewisham certainly wouldn’t do much to improve prospects as it stands.


“Lewisham’s primary sector has experienced no permanent exclusions within the last few years… This is in stark contrast with Lewisham’s secondary sector, where permanent exclusion rates are almost treble the national average and are over double the percentage in Lewisham’s statistical neighbours. Permanent exclusion rates across Lewisham’s secondary sector have been above average for over six years running.”

Further reading:

Lewisham Education Commission report

Ofsted annual report 2015/16

White Paper – Educational excellence everywhere


Author: lewishamlately

I'm Jolyon and I started Lewisham Lately after fretting about the lack of news coverage for the borough. I have lived in south-east London for the majority of my adult life, including Camberwell, Peckham followed by the leafier realms of Hither Green from 2009. Now on the fringe of Lee Green and Lewisham Central. Feedback, story ideas, corrections, disagreements are all more than welcome. Please do keep it civil, though - the world's an angry enough place as it is.

3 thoughts on “Lewisham and its chronically troubled secondary schools”

  1. What I find hugely depressing is that the recommendations of the Commission contain no “game changer” and seek to generate improvements from within the system itself.

    The Mayor of Lewisham stood on a manifesto to improve GSCE performance by 10% – a target which has received no scrutiny from either the local press or the council’s select committee system. Results have fallen significantly.

    It’s hard to see how the huge improvements which are desperarely needed will be made


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