Call for Northern schools to get extra funding to close gap in results

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SCHOOLS in the North of England should be given extra funding in recognition of the tougher challenge they face, according to a new report which warns there is a damaging national divide in education standards.

It suggests a “powerhouse premium” of per-pupil funding could help schools in disadvantaged areas of the North to close the gap with those in London which are both better funded and more academically successful.

The report published today by the think-tank IPPR North and the charity Teach First says that at secondary level, schools in the North receive around £5,700 per pupil, £100 less than the English average and £1,300 less than London. Primary schools receive £4,600 per pupil in grant funding, in line with national average, but £900 less than London.

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The report warns that the North of England lags behind the rest of the country in education attainment at a cost to the economy of £29bn. And it says that raising school attainment should be at the heart of the plans for the Northern Powerhouse.

The new report warns that educational inequalities between those from deprived homes and their peers begins in the North before children even start school. And the “early years gap” is said to be almost twice as large in the North as it is in London.

The report shows that at primary school standards being achieved in the North are in line with the rest of the country - although this is not the case in Yorkshire which lags behind both the rest of the North of England and the rest of the country.

The analysis shows that as a region Yorkshire has the worst performing schools in the North of England

It says most local authorities in the North West and North East outperform the English average, with Redcar and Cleveland, Trafford and Warrington all outperforming most London boroughs.

But the majority of authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber have results below the national average.

Standards in secondary school are said to be a big concern, according to the report.

Across the North, 55.5 per cent of pupils attain five good GCSEs including English and maths, compared with 57.3 per cent across England, and 60.9 per cent in London. Among disadvantaged children, only 34 per cent achieve the five good GCSEs benchmark in the north of England, compared with a national average of 36.8 per cent and 48.3 per cent in London.

Even in northern schools rated outstanding by Ofsted there is a gap of 22 percentage points between pupils on free school meals and their better-off peers. And it says the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber perform particularly badly in terms of the size of the attainment gap.

However despite the North lagging behind overall the report said that once a school’s intake had been “controlled for” it found schools in the North “appear to add more value to their pupils than those in many other regions”.

It adds: “This should not be used to make an excuse for low attainment. Rather it shows that schools in the North actually have a harder job than those in other parts of the country due to their more challenging intake, and need to be adequately compensated for this.”

Jonathan Clifton, associate director for public services at IPPR, and 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 successful turnaround of London’s schools shows that educational disadvantage can be tackled though investment, strong leadership and collaboration. We need a similar level ambition for schools in the North.”

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “At the heart of our education reforms is the mission of ensuring that every child receives an excellent education that enables them to fulfil their potential regardless of circumstances or geography. The job is not finished yet though.”

In the Budget the Government announced a new Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy backed by £20m a year.

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said: “This report rightly warns that the Government’s rhetoric of a northern powerhouse will not match reality unless real action is taken to close the growing attainment gap between disadvantaged young people and their peers.”