Is it an, "I am Spartacus," Moment when Everybody Including the Next-Door-Neighbours Cat, Prof. Biggles is Claiming Credit for the London Challenge's Success?

Sally Davenport's picture
In the time its taken to write this title, my auntie’s budgerigar Jeremy has also come forward to claim personal credit for the success of the London challenge.

I was sitting in a parked car with three friends, two of which were having a ‘cat-fight’ of a confab regarding the London Challenge. One was adamant that Lord Adonis should wear the laurels for its reported success while the other agreed with Fiona Millars’ comments, (please don’t sue me for copyright Fiona):

‘As you must know, delivery is all in education. I am not sure it was Adonis’ idea ( although I have noticed that he is very good at taking credit for just about everything) but anyone can come up with a whizzy new idea. Making it work demands leadership and effective implementation. London Challenge was a credit to the ministers concerned from the start, but more importantly to Sir Tim Brighouse who drove it through and then David Woods who succeeded him.
I have spoken to both at great length about why it worked I think they would both challenge the S o S’s interpretation and that of some people on this site. I am inclined to believe them rather than the armchair experts who are now using LC’s undoubted success for their own political ends.’

The remaining two of us were occupied speaking to an American friend on an open cellphone, trying to arrange a Hen night. This phone conversation became all rather muddled due to solar wind interference and Lord Adonis’ name being continually screeched in the background. So much so that my American friend became confused and thought that Lord Adonis was an English version of the famous American male troupe dance act ‘The Chippendales’. Let’s hope she doesn't book ‘Lord Adonis’ for the Hen night.

So what is the truth regarding the London Challenge? Should we believe that it’s all down to Adonis and Gove and tippex out Tim Brighouse’s work? Well, it wasn't any of them anyway. It was all me and I take full credit for the London Challenge success, for I am Spartacus!

Please discuss.
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Henry Stewart's picture
Tue, 13/11/2012 - 14:21

I love this post, Sally. Certainly made me laugh.

But I'm also intrigued. Can you share with us what Tim and David attributed the success to. They are certainly the people who should know what made it work. Another post?

Sally Davenport's picture
Tue, 13/11/2012 - 15:21

Hi Henry,

This was one of the chief reasons why I wrote the story and regurgitated Fiona Millar's comment from:

So sorry, I don't have the facts and I am not prepared to speculate. I'm hoping that those who know, can tell us. Perhaps you can have a word with Fiona and ask her to elaborate?

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 13/11/2012 - 16:25

I think they would say it was a combination of central government initiative, local authorities and schools collaborating ( stronger with weaker schools), sharing data and a relentless focus on improving teaching and leadership. Not really rocket science. Pleased to see that Stephen Twigg is going to say something similar tonight at the CAroline Benn Memorial Lecture. Labour should get back to the key issues of school improvement and leave the pointless structural reforms to the Tories.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 13:16

And what did Stephen Twigg say at the Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture?

I talked before about the London Challenge. Schools in London, which were once below average, are now amongst the best in the country.

The lessons are clear. Yes, creating new academies was part of the answer .......But the most important elements were clear and focused leadership, and schools collaborating with each other.

Almost word for word what Michael Gove said really.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 13/11/2012 - 15:55

Sally - it wasn't your auntie's budgie who was responsible for the success of the London Challenge. It may chirrup endlessly the words "Sponsored Academies... Sponsored Academies... who's a pretty boy then?" but it will make no difference.

No - your auntie's budgie was not responsible.

And your neighbour's cat didn't think up the idea either.

Rumour has it that it began with a little star - Estelle - supported by a brave knight, Tim of Brig House, and the little star's squire - Stephen of the small branch. But the little star was eclipsed by minor god who claimed the credit. Praise upon praise was poured onto the head of the minor god by a would-be-saint named Michael whose voice could be heard stridently claiming:

"Sponsored Academies! Sponsored Academies! All hail the architect of Sponsored Academies, the Godfather of the London Challenge!"

But voices are beginning to challenge this...

Sally Davenport's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 09:48

Oh but the voices are but whispers

Where are our champions who will boom the truth?

Maybe time for Labour and others to contemplate a shift in tactics and focus on the obvious weaknesses particularly Free Schools?

Gibberish 'Free School' policy is pure hogwash and one big open goal. Unbelievable that Labour is scared to take on Gove . The whole Free School thing is allegedly a fantasy freak show so let's tell the public the truth in way that everybody can immediately understand in a couple of sentences. And there will be lots of tabloid gold in those Free School hills waiting to be dug out and just watch those posh Tory boys do an almighty U-turn when things get too hot.

Question. What colourful characters, celebrities etc are involved in endeavouring to open Free Schools or are involved in Gove's sponsored academies?

Question. What outstanding high achieving Comprehensives are literally crumbling away due to no BSF or no other funding, but funding can be found for risky free schools?

Question. What are the names of all the under subscribed Free Schools? How much is each of these students at these Free schools costing the tax payer? Are existing neighbouring schools now suffering in lower attendances, hence more cost to taxpayer?

Question. Who is personally financially doing very well from Free Schools?

Question. Is there anything related to Free Schools that is weird or odd?

So to the Labour Party I say, got get your political crow bar out and wrench apart the big cracks in Gove's Free School fantasy. Dip your hand inside and pull out the putrid guts of this expensive nonsense and show us , the public the rotten truth!

(re. above. Janet, I came over all theatrical given your previous comment. Apologies) x

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 11:38

The dirty little secret about London Challenge is , of course, that what really got things improving was the private sector.

Yes - the much despised private sector.

22 out of the 23 most improved schools in London Challenge were supported by the school improvement consulting firm, Education London.

Many of the other schools in the scheme received outside support either from private education companies or from the the army of self-employed education consultants.

Odd, isn't it, that firms like EL are regarded as "wonderfully supportive, darling" when working under contract for LAs; but eeeevil capitalists when setting up free schools?

It all raises so many other questions too.

For instance:

Why is it that heatdeachers being paid something north of £70,000 are unable to be effective leaders or managers without some outside expert coming in to hold them by the hand?

If classroom teaching standards were so improved by London Challenge, why were they so crap before?

If the success of London Challenge had a lot to do with the introduction of formative assessment practices and sophisticated systems of tracking student progress, why the heck weren't schools using proper assessment for learning and progress tracking before?

In short, instead of congratulating these schools for their wonderful improvement, shouldn't we be suing them for their previous incompetence and negligence? What happened to the cohorts that went through these schools before the private sector cavalry was sent in to rescue them? Where are they now? Driving white vans? On benefits? Pretending to the post office counter clerk they've "left their glasses at home" so he'll fill in the forms they can't read?

Sally Davenport's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 15:07


Nothing wrong with driving white vans.

Sack the incompetent headteachers and bring all those teachers failing our children to account; and need be sack them too if they can't do the job they are paid to do.

However there's a heck of a majority of good and excellent teachers who for whatever reason are not becoming headteachers or receiving the plaudits they deserve.

So there you go x

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 16:35

Sally - I can hear the strident voices conducted by Gove bawling from the DfE :

Sack em all! Sack em all!
The long and the short and the tall.
Sack all the teachers and ditch everyone!
Sack all assistants and make them all run!
'Cos we're saying goodbye to them all, as down the league tables they fall;
They'll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my Spads, Sack 'em All

Sally Davenport's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 18:06


Did you compose this or have you plagiarised it?

I am not surprised if it's your 'baby' but might use it in the future, if that's okay with you? Its great and reminds me of my father's football chants when I was a kid. What was your inspiration? I know that there might be a chant used by the Tories at the DFE and I think it derives from a song by fans of a London football club called Millwall. Do you know it?


Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 15/11/2012 - 16:15

Sally - it's a parody of "Bless 'em all", a WW2 song. The first link below will take you to Vera Lynn singing the song and the second link sends you to the lyrics.

As you might expect, there's a rude version but I claim no knowledge of that.

I often used the play "The Long and the Short and the Tall" by Willis Hall (later a film starring Laurence Harvey and Richard Todd) as a GCSE text. The title was taken from the song "Bless 'Em All" and the pupils I taught (mostly boys) used to enjoy singing it (clean version only allowed). I often wonder just what an Ofsted inspector would make of my lesson with the boys doing a karaoke version of "Bless 'Em All".

Enjoy singing along as often and as loudly as you like!'em%20all.htm (re the play)

W.O. 2 John Thomas De Sarsta's picture
Fri, 16/11/2012 - 07:26

Oh they say there's a troopship just leaving Bombay
Bound for old Blighty's shore,
Heavily laden with time-expired men
Bound for the land they adore;
There's many a t**t just finishing his time,
There's many a c**t signing on;
You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads, f**k 'em all!

Chorus: F**k 'em all!
F**k 'em all!
The long and the short and the tall;
F**k all the Sergeants and W.O.l.'s,
F**k all the corporals and their bastard sons;
For we're saying goodbye to them all,
As up the C.O.'s a**e they crawl; 15
You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads, f**k 'em all!

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 16/11/2012 - 08:28

Sally - the song based on the Millwall chant might be "No one likes us..." sung to the tune of "We are sailing..." by Rod Stewart (according to Wiki - link below). I've changed the words to suggest what the DfE song might be:

"No one likes us,
No one likes us,
No one likes us,
We don't care.

We are Michael's, super Michael's,
We are Michael's, from the Pits.,_we_don't_care

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 13:23

Item 6: in thread re Ofsted contradicting Gove (see side panel). One of the factors contributing to the success of London Challenge was:

'Support, “without strings attached and without conflicts of interest”, from local authorities (LAs), external consultants or teaching schools aimed at raising the quality of teaching and learning.'

So, the support, supplied without ulterior motives, was provided by a mixture of LAs, external consultants and teaching schools.

But instead of praising this co-operation we should apparently only concentrate on the contribution of outside consultants (the "private sector cavalry").

Sally now has the answer to her question - it wasn't a budgie, or a cat, or Biggles who were responsible for the success of the London Challenge. It was the private sector galloping in on trusty steeds.

Sally Davenport's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 15:08

Brilliant comment Janet x

Guest's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 17:24

What is a Biggle?

Are they mandatory?

Surely Biggling must have played some part in the success of London Challenge?

Sally Davenport's picture
Sat, 17/11/2012 - 08:59

It's a good question.

I think this needs a new story.

Must go, I'm off to do a biggle or two.


Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 14/11/2012 - 17:18

Once upon a time there were some educational consultants. They worked with local authorities and teaching schools to offer no-strings help to heads and teachers. Inspectors praised the scheme:

“We have identified many factors which contributed to the success of this initiative. The support offered by consultants and local authorities and teaching schools has improved education. We recommend that lessons learnt from this work should be rolled out into the regions.”

But Saint Michael did not extend this work to the regions. Instead, he said the success of the scheme was due to the deployment of Sponsored Academies which, in truth, had nothing to do with it.

So the consultants looked round for more work to do. There was insufficient demand for them in existing schools so they thought, “We must support demands for free schools”.

But no school can be run for profit so they sponsored a Trust. And some of the schools they supported caused controversy. But that didn’t matter. They were fulfilling a demand. And the no-strings support becomes a web connecting consultants and Trust and schools…

Sally Davenport's picture
Fri, 16/11/2012 - 21:32

Janet You are right!!!

It wasn't a song sung by my father but grandfather who was a 'Tommy' in WW2.

Lots of thanks on this x

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