Blackpool Challenge launches in bid to emulate success of the famous London initiative

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Challenge: Blackpool (Photo: iStock)

School and education leaders in Blackpool are hoping to replicate the success of the celebrated London Challenge with the launch of their own initiative.

The Blackpool Challenge is aiming to bring together school leaders, teachers and parents to raise aspirations and drive up pupil progress across the city.

It is being led by Sonia Blandford, professor of education and social enterprise at University College London’s Institute of Education, and will include both academy and maintained schools – targeting specifically those rated by Ofsted as inadequate or requiring improvement.

The London Challenge was launched in 2003 in a bid to tackle poor examination outcomes and support challenging schools across the capital.

The scheme was based on collaboration between schools facing similar challenges, a detailed use of data, and a focus on raising the quality of school leadership and teaching and learning. By 2010, London had a higher proportion of good and outstanding schools than any other area of England.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector and former advisor to the London Challenge, has put the initiative’s success down to the combination of additional funding, expert support and its simple moral objective.

Sir Mike has often said that the initiative could be repeated in other cities across England and forms of the scheme have already been implemented in Manchester and the Black Country.

The Blackpool Challenge was launched at an event in the city last week when school leaders, local authority representatives, regional schools commissioner Paul Smith, and pupils, parents and teachers joined a debate about the next steps.

Blackpool Council has already said that the Challenge will focus on driving up pupil progress and making all the city’s schools “outstanding”. It will also include a focus on leadership, quality teaching and high expectations of learners, as well as raising aspirations and local, regional and national employment prospects for young people.

Prof Blandford, chairman of the Blackpool Challenge Board, said: “While the key outcome we’re striving for is raising the aspirations of our young people, we must first raise our own aspirations. That’s why we’re setting out a vision to strive towards providing a world-class, universal standard of education, to ensure that we’re raising aspiration in the educational professions too.”

Cllr John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for school improvement, added: “Improving educational standards, particularly at secondary level, and raising aspiration in Blackpool is vital. While we’ve been striving to do so, and have made some good progress in supporting schools through the School Improvement Board, we need to make more progress at pace.”


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