North-South divide in education standards affecting too many northern young people, report warns

Boosting performance of northern schools should be top priority for new Education Secretary Damian Hinds, suggests Northern Powerhouse Partnership 

Eleanor Busby
Thursday 01 February 2018 01:37 GMT
The North-South divide in education standards still exists, new report says
The North-South divide in education standards still exists, new report says

Too many children in the north are not receiving the education they need, a new report suggests.

A significant north-south divide in education still exists with too many young northerners, especially those from disadvantaged homes, falling behind other parts of the UK, the report says.

Improving schools in the north of England should be “at the top of the in-tray” for new Education Secretary Damian Hinds, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has suggested.

Disadvantaged northern teenagers fall one GCSE grade on average behind the rest of the UK, according to the NPP study.

The report calls on businesses to mentor at least as many northern schoolchildren as they have employees in the region – if successful, it would reach more than 900,000 young people.

The NPP warns that it will not be able to increase the north's contribution to the UK economy without tackling the low educational performance of a significant proportion of children in the area.

Data shows the average GCSE score across eight subjects in 2016/17 among teenagers across the north, those living in the north east, north west and Yorkshire and the Humber, was 45.1, compared to a national average of 46.1 and an average of 48.6 in London.

Separate figures for 2015/16 show that disadvantaged teenagers living in the north score around 13 points less across eight subjects than their better-off peers in the region. This is equivalent to poorer pupils scoring around a grade lower on average.

A foreword to today’s report says: “In all the work we have done consulting with businesses in the North, poor skills and inadequate training come across consistently as the major issues.

”As our report documents, the facts show educational attainment in the North of England lags behind the South.

“Compared with London pupils, pupils in the North make a third of a grade less progress overall at 16 and almost half a grade less in mathematics on average, one in four of them at secondary schools judged by Ofsted as inadequate or requiring improvement.

”Too many children in the North aren't getting the education they need or deserve.“

Lord Jim O'Neill, NPP vice-chair, said Mr Hinds should make boosting the performance of northern schools a top priority in his new role as Education Secretary.

He said: ”For the Northern Powerhouse to succeed and deliver a North that pulls its weight in economic terms the first things we have to sort out are education and skills.

“Sorting out schools in the Northern Powerhouse should be at the top of the new Education Secretary's in-tray, and we will be working closely with government to implement our recommendations.”

Today’s report also calls for extra money for early years services, and for disadvantaged pupils.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said: “Closing the education gap by taking a cradle to adulthood approach, with a particular emphasis on improving early years, secondary school education and skills, must a top priority.

“The Northern Powerhouse agenda is a once in a lifetime opportunity for regenerating Northern regions and to succeed it must put children at its heart. If it does not it will have failed.”

Additional reporting by PA

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