Mayor calls for new London Schools Commissioner

27 November 2015

With London’s population expected to rise to 11 million people by 2050, two reports published today throw fresh light on the increasing demand for school places in the capital as well as a looming shortfall in headteachers. 

Schools in the capital continue to outperform the rest of the country, but the stark findings have prompted the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to call for a single London Schools Commissioner to be appointed with powers to address these challenges.

The Mayor commissioned the reports which show that almost 165,000 additional state school places will be needed by 2025 and that 58 per cent of the capital’s headteachers are considering leaving their role in the next three years, mainly through retirement. Whilst more London middle and senior leaders aspire to be a head than those surveyed outside of the capital, not enough are getting the support they say they need through coaching, mentoring and placements to become headteachers. 

Since 2008 the Mayor has brought in a range of initiatives to raise attainment and provide more places across the capital. With the demand for places becoming increasingly urgent, a London Schools Commissioner would have pan-London responsibility for schools and would work with the existing education network in the capital, including the GLA, London Councils, headteacher groups and schools, to galvanise the creation of new places, secure a pool of new school leaders and ensure that standards continue to improve.  

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “A Schools Commissioner for London is a no-brainer. Our schools are a fantastic success story but action needs to be taken now to ensure this continues. We need a Commissioner with the powers and oversight to ensure there will be enough schools places for our growing population and that pupils will have access to the rigorous, high quality education that they deserve wherever they live in the capital.”

Both reports have been published to coincide with the Mayor’s annual Education Conference which brings together 450 school and college leaders as well as international experts in education to celebrate London's successes and debate what needs to be done to tackle problems that still exist.  

The ‘Projected Demand for School Places report’ aims to help local authorities, the Department for Education and planners to make long-term decisions around the funding and provision of places, taking factors like changing birth rates, cross borough mobility and the number of pupils likely to attend independent schools fully into account. The report shows that demand for secondary places is expected to rise by around 105,000 by 2025, not including Years 12 and 13 (6th Form), and that 60,000 new primary places will also be needed over this time. 

The GLA Intelligence Unit developed a new methodology which uses its own population projections along with data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) to come up with the new projections. This work gives an unprecedented and comprehensive picture of where school places will be needed across the capital over the next ten years and shows how population growth is likely to translate into greater demand in the school system. 

Demand for school places will have a huge impact on the number of heads needed in the capital as pupil numbers rise and new schools are set up. The second report, ‘Building the Leadership Pool in London Schools’, already shows a shortage of high quality headteachers. A key report recommendation is for London education agencies to develop and consult on establishing a school leadership talent pool for the city. The Mayor’s Office is currently working with partner agencies and stakeholders to draw up an action plan and develop a pilot to better support and encourage aspiring leaders to become the next generation of headteachers.

Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, Munira Mirza, said: “This new data demonstrates the real scale of the school places situation over the next decade as well as the need to develop a larger pool of top quality headteachers. Addressing the needs of London’s growing school population will require joint action and resources from central government, local authorities and planners for years to come.

“We need a single Schools Commissioner for London who can continue to improve our schools for years to come and work across the capital with City Hall, schools, boroughs, academy chains and parents. It just doesn’t make sense to have a schools commissioner with power over Hackney and Suffolk but not Hackney and Islington. Or another commissioner with power over Camden and Central Bedfordshire but not Camden and Haringey.”

School commissioners currently focus on underperforming schools and new academies. There are three covering London, each with responsibility for one part of the capital and around half a dozen counties of Southern England. A single London Schools Commissioner could bring strong regional leadership and coordination, and inspire ambition in schools and pupils, as well as maximising London’s assets and enabling young Londoners to benefit even more from the city’s economic success.

Notes to editors

1.      Both reports were published as part of the Mayor’s programme to drive up standards in education.  

  • This includes securing sites for 16 new schools, establishing the £24 million London Schools Excellence Fund, which has stimulated new partnerships and helped improve teachers’ subject knowledge and expertise; setting up a schools unit to help groups wanting to set up free schools; the ‘Gold Club’ scheme, which has celebrated over 240 exceptional schools in London with pupils from all backgrounds achieving academic success; and creating the London School Atlas, an interactive online map providing a uniquely detailed and comprehensive picture of London schools, current patterns of attendance and potential future demand for school places.

2.      ‘Projected demand for school’ places report:

  • The GLA Intelligence Unit has developed a new methodology, which uses data from the Mayor’s Office and from the National Pupil Database (NPD) to come up with the new projections. This work builds on the London School Atlas and gives an unprecedented and comprehensive picture of where school places will be needed across the capital over the next ten years. It shows how population growth over the next decade is likely to translate into demand in the school system. 
  • As well as the report being available on the GLA Data Store, the source code used to make the new projections is being made freely available, adding to the transparency of the outputs as well as allowing it to be used and adapted by local authorities and planners.
  • The resource is available online at:
  • This resource has been developed by the GLA Intelligence Unit following recommendations made by the Mayor’s 2012 Education Inquiry Final Report and 2013 London Assembly Education Panel’s London Learners, London Lives report for projections of demand for places across London to be published to help support strategic planning work. 

3.      ‘Building the Leadership Pool in London Schools’ report

  • Evidence set out in the ‘Building the Leadership Pool in London Schools’ report provides evidence of the growing shortage of headteachers and a wide recognition that more needs to be done to secure the leadership pool for outstanding, future school leaders.
  • More middle and senior leaders in London aspire to be a head than those surveyed outside of the capital (49% of primary and 31% of secondary, compared with 27% and 17% outside of London). While a range of training and support is currently on offer in the capital, the research shows that potential headteachers are not being supported to navigate the training effectively; that many are not aware of what is available; and that there is no tailored framework to support and encourage potential leaders to prepare and apply for the role.
  • The report concludes that the leadership pool in London schools must be pro-actively nurtured to ensure that support and development opportunities are systematically available across the school system to talented teachers, middle and senior leaders.
  • The full findings and conclusions for London’s schools and education agencies can be downloaded, along with research data, at
  • The research was commissioned by the GLA on behalf of the following pan-London agencies and groups, who had all identified increasing the pool of potential headteachers and senior leaders as a major priority:  London Councils, Association of London Directors of Children’s Services, borough Heads of School Improvement, Regional Schools Commissioners, Teaching Schools Council and National College of Teaching and Leadership.

4.      The Annual London Education Report is published at the conference. Key findings from this year’s report include:

  • London has a higher proportion of good and outstanding than any other region (combined primary and secondary schools)
  • London is the top region for most Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 attainment measures.
  • London’s disadvantaged pupils (pupil premium eligible) perform better than the rest of country. 
  • London schools are finding it more difficult to employ headteachers than nationally. However proportionally more teachers in London aspire to become a headteacher than the national average. 
  • The full report can be found at

5.       The ‘Investigating the school improvement needs and practices of London primary and secondary schools’ report, is also being published at the conference and contains the findings of a survey with 230 London schools between September and November 2015. The full report can be found at: