The north-south divide separating our poorest children

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CHILDREN born into the poorest families in Yorkshire are failing to develop as quickly as youngsters in the South, a new report reveals.

This stark early years gap shows that just 47% of children in the North of England achieve a good standard of development before the age of five-years-old. In London, 59% of children meet the correct standard.

In its all annual ‘State of the North’ report, think tank IPPR North found that residents are held back in every stage of life, starting before they even reach primary school.

At a launch in Sheffield today, Labour MP for Barnsley, Dan Jarvis, will say that now it the time for a ‘laser-like focus on skills’ in early years to make sure that a rebalancing of the economy also includes the crucial issue of social justice so Yorkshire’s children aren’t left behind.

Former colliery Orgreave’s transformation into the Advanced Manufacturing Park serves as an example the region’s promise and potential, and he has today written to the Conservative’s National Infrastructure Commission chair Lord Adonis asking him to conduct an immediate review of the schemes in the north compared to the south of England.

Criticising the 12% performance gap among the under-fives in London and Yorkshire, the former Labour shadow minister for foreign affairs, said: “The Northern Powerhouse cannot just be about a stronger economy – it must also be about creating a more just society. Because measures like whether our national GDP is rising are meaningless if life chances are still a postcode lottery.

“As IPPR North has highlighted today, less than half of the most deprived children in the North achieve a good level of development before their 5th birthday.”

“If we look at our children’s centres, the North West, North East and Yorkshire & Humber still receive the poorest reviews from Ofsted. So if we’re going to talk about essential infrastructure and making the most of our most precious resources, let’s make supporting children and revitalising services like Sure Start a priority.”

IPPR North’s report also found that while 55 per cent of young people in Yorkshire attain the standard of 5 GCSEs A*- C, including English and Maths– it was only 33% for those receiving free school meals.

Ed Cox, director at IPPR North, said: “If the Northern Powerhouse is to drive national prosperity, these figures show the challenges it must overcome to become a reality.

“We will never become a powerhouse economy when our children and young people have such a poor start in life.

“It will take a generation of investment: not only in new railways and motorways, but in the ‘human capital’ of the North – in education and training, starting with the youngest.”

The State of the North report also found that the region’s productivity trails the national average by 10.6 per cent.

Research also showed that employment rates were found to be particularly high in areas such as York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (77.2 per cent),

Mr Jarvis’ letter to Labour cabinet minister and peer Lord Adonis who is chair of the Conservative’s National Infrastructure Commission, demands a report into the North and South infrastructure divide, which currently sees the North lagging far behind in terms of spending.

Mr Jarvis said that this is a matter of national importance, far from provincial, and ‘would put us on the road to spreading more wealth across the country.’

He said the Advanced Manufacturing Park close to the former Orgreave colliery was an excellent example of how leading technology employment bases can exist in the North and can help to regenerate entire areas.

He said: “It’s an example of why we shouldn’t define our northern regions by their past, but by their promise and potential.”