Inquiry to study why region’s pupils lag behind

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AN INQUIRY into school standards in Yorkshire will aim to identify why children from poor backgrounds and those with English as a second language perform worse in Yorkshire than they do elsewhere in the country.

Professor Mel Ainscow, who is leading a major drive to raise standards, said he wanted a pilot project which is being launched in the region’s schools to provide answers about Yorkshire’s under-performance.

He has been brought in to lead a project backed by the 15 education authorities in the region to get Yorkshire schools off the bottom of national league tables.

The Yorkshire Post has joined this county-wide drive to raise standards by launching our Turning the Page campaign to highlight the importance of children being able to read and write.

At almost every stage of their education, pupils in Yorkshire are less likely to reach the level of literacy expected of them than young people anywhere else in England.

The figures also show that children from deprived backgrounds do less well in Yorkshire than elsewhere. Almost a third of Yorkshire pupils on free school meals (30 per cent) did not get to the level expected of them in reading at the end of their primary education last year.

This was higher than in any other region in England and compares with a national average of 25 per cent or a figure of just 17 per cent in London.

Figures also show that while 18 per cent of children in their last year of primary school in Yorkshire were on free school meals in London the figure was 26 per cent.

Statistics from the Department for Education also suggest those with English as a second language perform less well in Yorkshire than elsewhere.

A quarter (25 per cent) of 11-year-old children in the region with English as a second language failed to get to the expected level in reading compared with a national average of 17 per cent.

Prof Ainscow said understanding why the region lagged behind in these areas was an important part of his inquiry

However, he added: “It has been pointed out to me that when we talk about the performance of Yorkshire schools we are not talking about one area. There is a great diversity. The issues surrounding someone from a deprived background in Scarborough might be different from those in Sheffield.”

He said he hoped the school improvement work would provide answers. A group of 23 pathfinder schools are receiving expert help and working together in an attempt to raise standards.

The schools, from across Yorkshire, are all rated less than good by Ofsted but are already showing signs of improvement.