An Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report has found that students in Northern England, who continue to lag behind their London-area peers in educational attainment, receive £1,300 per year less in government funding.

The IPPR cites the data to argue that the national education funding formula be readjusted to deliver more equitable financial distribution to schools in the North as it calls for refocusing priorities to help those schools succeed.

The report also calls into question whether academisation is the right move for Northern schools that outperform, stating that, “At a local authority level, around half of the North’s local authorities outperform the national average… It is important that the expertise of these local authorities is not lost as more schools become academies.”

“Northern Schools: Putting education at the heart of the Northern powerhouse” argues that schools will be the locus around which economic growth and the success of the region will operate. But the IPPR lays bare an early skills gap between the wealthy and disadvantaged in the North, which the report claims is twice as large as in the South. Gaps on overall attainment persist, which IPPR says will present a significant difficulty even if the lowest-performing schools are turned around.

Jonathan Clifton, one of the report’s authors, said:

“Two decades ago London was the worst place to attend school if you were from a low-income background, now London’s disadvantaged pupils achieve better outcomes than those in other parts of the country.”

The report offers several key takeaways that reinforce priorities for both Northern schools and the nation’s approach to them:

  • Opportunity and achievement gaps begin early on, making earlier interventions important to set up future success;
  • Local authorities are managing primary schools well, and that expertise should be built upon rather than replaced;
  • Secondary attainment, which is offers the most severe statistics on inequity, should be the major focus of interventions;
  • An obsession over improving the lowest-performing schools does not address the attainment gaps present in all of the North’s schools, including those showing positive results;
  • Large cities — not just satellite and coastal towns — are in need of major reforms, with the report stating that, “In Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds, less than a third of disadvantaged pupils achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths”;
  • Northern schools have a more difficult job, with data showing that the schools’ intake presents a greater challenge than in other parts of the country and should be recognized with adequate funding;
  • Funding distribution and addressing challenges such as teacher retention struggles must be priorities, with Northern schools receiving both financial resources and management support.

 

The report is a collaboration with Teach First, which states a mission to end inequality in education and to build a network of ‘exceptional’ leaders to create broad change in both the classroom and society.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan reaffirmed her support for Teach First and touted the government’s programs to address the problems outlined in the report:

“We know great teachers are vital to raising standards in schools and are changing lives every day. That’s why we are continuing to work with groups like Teach First who are helping to place those teachers where they are needed most, returning power back to the profession through our white paper reforms and introducing schemes like the National Teaching Service which will develop even more brilliant leaders.”

The Institute for Public Policy Research bills itself as being the UK’s leading progressive think tank.