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'Stark' North-South gap in GCSE results needs urgent government intervention, say MPs

Education secretary urged to set out what action is being taken to address teacher shortages and 'failures' of academy chains in the North

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 08 May 2018 19:32 BST
'Stark' North-South gap in GCSE results needs urgent government intervention, say MPs

MPs have called on the government to take urgent action to narrow the “stark” attainment gap between young people in the north of England and those living in the rest of the country.

Tory MP Robert Halfon, chair of education select committee, has written to education secretary Damian Hinds to ask what he plans to do to improve the quality of education in the North.

It comes after a report, from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) in February this year, revealed that disadvantaged northern teenagers fall on average one GCSE grade behind the rest of the country.

The letter asks the minister to set out what action the Department for Education (DfE) is taking to address the attainment gap, teacher shortages and “failures” of academy chains in the North.

“We were struck by the stark educational attainment gap between the North and other parts of England, particularly for disadvantaged pupils,” it said.

The letter comes after former chancellor George Osborne, who chairs the NPP, addressed the education select committee on improving education in northern England last week.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the former MP said “overall leadership” from the UK government was the best way to address the challenges in the North.

Mr Halfon said: “The Education Committee shares concerns about skills, inequalities in educational attainment and social justice and welcomes the path for improvement proposed by the NPP.

“The government must now urgently spell out what action it is taking to narrow the attainment gap between the North and the rest of the country.”

The report from the NPP earlier this year called on businesses to mentor at least as many northern school children as they have employees in the region.

It warned 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.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Across the country nine out of 10 schools are now rated good or outstanding and 1.9 million more pupils are now in these schools than in 2010.

“But we know there are areas where standards fall short and want to create a country where everyone gets the best start in life, regardless of where they’re from.

“We are investing in projects to raise pupils’ outcomes from an early age, train effective school leaders and we are investing £70m to boost school performance in the North as part of the Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy.

“We are also improving educational attainment for children in areas that have faced long-term challenges through our 12 opportunity areas – five of which are in the North.”

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