Children in the North of England suffer with poor schools and an education gap that begins before they start attending school and then widens over time, a report claims.

The findings from Anne Longfield, England’s Children Commissioner, says that poor children also face the double disadvantage of not just having poor schools but also entrenched deprivation.

She is now calling for more investment and a boost to teacher recruitment for Northern schools. She also wants help for struggling families.

In response, the government says it is committing £70m to help improve schools in the region.

Research with schools, children, charities and health professionals

The study is based on 12 months of conversations and research with schools, children, charities and health professionals as well as councils and businesses.

It claims that while many children are thriving in the North, there are big gaps between the poorest children living in the region and the poorest living in London.

The report highlights that for a child receiving free school meals and living in Hackney, London, is around three times more likely to head for university than a child from Hartlepool receiving free school meals will do.

Also, poor children in London are more likely to achieve better English and maths GCSEs than poor children in the North.

The Commissioner also says that too many children in the North lag behind where they should be and some with special educational needs have not been picked up by the system.

Half of secondary schools judged as less than good

Also, around half of secondary schools in some of the most deprived communities in the North are judged as less than good.

In addition to large numbers dropping out of education before the age of 18, there appears to be a lack of confidence among these children that economic regeneration, for instance the Northern Powerhouse, will create more opportunities or jobs for them.

Now, Ms Longfield says there should be a Northern schools programme created that will not only boost recruitment numbers into teaching posts but create new partnerships between schools and employers to help broaden pupils horizons.

Ms Longfield said: “In some areas children look at new developments but have little hope they will feel benefits or are see increased choices in their lives.

‘All of them should have a bright future’

“In the North, there are 3.6 million children growing up and all of them should have a bright future and the best opportunities for a happy, prosperous and healthy life.”

She added: “Where a child lives and grows up shouldn’t be a barrier for them to make the most of their life.”

Designated to receive extra government funding

The Department for Education says that five of the opportunity areas that have been designated to receive extra government funding are in the North.

A spokesman said: “No matter what their background, or where they live, we want to create a country where everyone has the best start in life.

“As the Children’s Commissioner notes, while many children are now thriving in the North there is more to do.”

The government says it is investing £3.4 billion in various projects under the Northern Powerhouse programme and there’s £12 million for good teaching practice in English in a bid to improve early literacy.

There’s also money available for schemes that will help a family support their child’s education in the home.


More information

The Children’s Commissioner’s report ‘Growing Up North, Look North: A generation of children await the powerhouse promise’ is available to download.