Today, 1 February, a report was published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, led by former chancellor George Osborne, calling on the Prime Minister to ‘focus on poor education attainment in the North of England’.

The new report entitled Educating the North: driving ambition across the Powerhouse has called for a £300m increase in Government funding for disadvantaged areas across the North to ensure every child is school ready by the age of five.

The report claims that pupils in the north of England are, on average, one GCSE grade behind comparable pupils in the South.

This impacts their future development and leaves them behind the rest of the UK when they leave school, it says.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has published a report warning of the education and skills gap in the North and calling on more Whitehall investment to help worse-off families.

The report also calls on employers in the Northern Powerhouse to play a far greater role in offering mentoring and meaningfully reaching out to children and young people.

The government has made clear its commitment to support schools in the North, which can be seen through the Social Mobility Action Plan, the £72 million invested in areas across the country, including the north through the Opportunity Areas Programme and their recent investment to improve literacy in schools in these areas.

Commenting on the Northern Powerhouse Partnership report:

Stephen Lambert100x100Newcastle Councillor Stephen Lambert, said:

This is a damning report which once again highlights the stark educational divide between the North East and South. There’s a  clear need for central government working in partnership with the educational and business communities to invest fully into both  secondary schools and FE colleges across the North East alongside a systemmatic assault on deep rooted social inequalities both in the home and urban communities. A Learning Challenge based on the successful model in London is one way forward and it’s to be hoped that both the newly created Tees Valley Combined Authority and the proposed North of Tyne CA will set one up.

Northern youth and their families deserve parity with the South East.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Standards are rising thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools since 2010 and nine out of ten schools awarded this rating at their latest inspection.We want all pupils to benefit from a world-class education that inspires them to make the most of their lives, no matter where they live or their background. That’s why we launched our Social Mobility Action Plan, which sets out a range of action including targeting the areas that need the most support through the £72million Opportunity Areas programme and our recent investment in literacy to help every child arrive at school with the vocabulary levels they need to learn. This builds on the £2.5billion we provide to schools to help raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils through the Pupil Premium.

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

We welcome the recognition from George Osborne that more investment in education is sorely needed. There is much rejoicing in heaven over a sinner that repenteth.

Regional inequality and growing levels of deprivation and poverty are huge problems this Government is failing to tackle. Just last week the End Child Poverty coalition released statistics of growing levels of child poverty in areas that were already some of the most deprived. Brutal cuts to services and the Government’s benefit reforms have driven this. The cuts to Sure Start and to schools exacerbate these problems and the regional divide.

The improvement in London schools came alongside a significant investment in teacher salaries in the capital with the introduction of a significant uplift in London payments in the early 2000s and the London Challenge – a city-wide school improvement effort that was based on collaboration.  That sort of investment and approach needs to be replicated elsewhere. Unfortunately this Government has cut back hard on school funding since 2015 with more than £2 billion taken out in real terms, while its predecessor Coalition Government closed down the London Challenge and daughter projects when it took office in 2010.

It is right to call for greater investment in early years and it is also important that vocational education and apprenticeships are connected to high quality jobs. However huge real terms cuts to school and local authority budgets across the country have left many head teachers struggling to find the money or resources to support students most in need. The Education Secretary must address this issue with urgency.

For many children and young people this is their only chance to gain an education and to move into the world with the qualifications and confidence they need to realise their ambitions.  Schools must be given the tools with which they can make every child’s education the best possible.”

George Osbourne, Chair of the NPP said in his introduction:

We created the Northern Powerhouse Partnership to bring businesses, civic leaders, universities and others together so that we can speak with one voice about how we build a better future for the North of England.

Over the last year, we’ve shown what great economic potential the North has if we invest in our key strengths; and we have helped create a consensus between the private and public sectors around the infrastructure needed to make the most of those strengths. That has fed directly into government decisions. The Strategic Transport Plan produced by Transport for the North – involving a real selection of priorities by the whole of the North working together – would have been inconceivable just three years ago. Today it’s an example of the Northern Powerhouse working together as one.

Now we turn our efforts to perhaps the greatest challenge we face in the North: education. 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 sixteen 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.

We can either resign ourselves to failure and say nothing can be done, or we can act. In the North, we are choosing to act. Our report sets out 14 recommendations we can take to improve the schools and training in the North of England. From radical new steps in devolving adult education funding to the new Metro Mayors, to a commitment from businesses here to help mentor and provide career support to 900,000 Northern schoolchildren, this is a detailed plan to address decades of underperformance in education in the North of England.

The potential is there. I’ve seen it in my own lifetime with the way schooling in London, once among the worst in the country, is now among the best because of concerted reform, investment and private sector involvement. I’ve seen it in the last year when I visited the brilliant Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle – and met motivated students and great teachers. There is no reason why these successes can’t be replicated everywhere, from Blackpool to Bradford and from Bolton to Barnsley.

I want to thank Collette Roche from Manchester Airports Group for leading this work; thank the many dozens of businesses, schools, colleges and others who took part in our working sessions. As ever, my colleague Jim O’Neill was invaluable – as were the permanent team at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

The future of the North lies in our own hands. Good education and training is at its very heart. This report is a call to arms for the Northern Powerhouse – made in the North, by the North and for the North. I urge the government to play its part in implementing it. Let’s make it happen for the sake of the next generation.

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