London is a global city. It is ethnically, linguistically, racially and religiously diverse. It is home to seven million people who between them speak over 300 languages. In this challenging lecture, Kathryn Riley, Director of the London Education Research Unit (LERU) and Director of Research in the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, argues for a radical step change in thinking about education. If educators are to meet the needs, aspirations and dreams of young Londoners, then more needs to be known about their lives and experiences. How do these young people experience London's diversity, its opportunities and its challenges? What's changing in London that affects their lives? London schools, she suggests, offer the closest thing we have to a common experience, and the opportunity to share core values. However, the speed and complexity of change means they need to accelerate their activities and find new and dynamic ways of engaging with their students, their families and their communities.
Schools need to focus on why the city is as it is and what young people can do to shape it or change it: to develop political literacy, not just the reading of the 'word' but the reading of the 'world'. Policy-makers need to redirect funding to schools that are tackling the greatest social disadvantage, and introduce financial incentives to encourage secondary schools to take the range of ability groups. To support all these changes, a vision of education for London is needed. This requires a strong Education Federation which is responsible for pan-London collaboration, thinking and planning, and is supported by a Knowledge Hub which identifies and fills the gaps.