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Tristram Hunt: Labour will bring back the London Challenge

Labour will introduce a national version of the London Challenge if it wins the general election in a bid to boost standards in schools in coastal areas.

The party’s education spokesman Tristram Hunt said he intended to reintroduce what was widely regarded as one of Labour’s most successful policies when it was last in power.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Manchester today, Mr Hunt condemned the Conservatives’ track record on education since it has shared power as “shameful”, and he called for greater collaboration between schools and their teachers.

“Schools, like teachers, work best as a team. We learnt that with Labour’s London Challenge – transforming results for London’s schools. The Tories think education should be a competitive fight,” he said.

“We believe in partnership and collaboration. As secretary of state for education, I will roll out the London Challenge scheme across the country: tackling poor results and raising standards in our coastal towns, counties, and regional cities.”

The performance of pupils in coastal regions has been of particular concern for Ofsted, and Her Majesty’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has spoken of his support for rolling out the London Challenge nationwide.

Last year Sir Michael said there was an issue of underachievement had shifted from inner cities and was now affecting the “invisible poor” of the suburbs, rural areas as well as coastal towns.

And speaking to TES earlier this month, he said he wanted to see exceptional heads being paid more to work with struggling schools in these areas.

“If we’re going to do anything about the long tail of underachievement, we have to crack this problem," Sir Michael said on the issue of poor standards outside of the major cities. “We’re not going to rise up the Pisa [Programme for International Student Assessment] tables until this issue is sorted out."

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