The five areas of Yorkshire and the Humber where under a third of pupils go to university

A new 'taskforce' of Conservative MPs has been formed to hold Boris Johnson to his 'levelling up' agenda as new figures illustrate the stark divide between the educational prospects of London and Yorkshire.

Less than a third of the population goes onto higher education in five areas of the region and the proportion of young people in Yorkshire going to university lags far behind that in the capital, according to analysis by Onward, a think-tank led by Huddersfield-born Conservative MP Neil O'Brien.

The centre-right organisation today publishes a report, Measuring up for levelling up, which reveals the growing gulf between London and the North in areas such as household income, economic growth and educational outcomes.

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The report shows that opportunity is not evenly spread, with more than 45 per cent of poorer pupils in Greater London who were eligible for free school meals progressing to higher education in 2018/19.

Outside London there were 80 local authorities where richer pupils not on free school meals were less likely than this to go to university.

In five parts of Yorkshire and the Humber, Hull, North East Lincolnshire, Barnsley, Doncaster and North Lincolnshire, less than a third of all pupils go onto higher education.

The report says: "In recent years the proportion of pupils going to university has been much higher in London than the rest of the country, with other urban areas like the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicester also doing well.

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Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates. 17th July 2020..
Picture by Jonathan GawthorpePenistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates. 17th July 2020..
Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates. 17th July 2020.. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe

"The proportion progressing to higher education has grown much faster in these areas.

"This may to some extent reflect the growing proportion of parents in these cities who are graduates, but may also reflect other factors.

"If we look at progression rates just for children eligible for free school meals (who may have more similar parental qualifications) the pattern is the same, with FSM pupils in London more likely to go than the average pupil elsewhere."

The Conservatives success in taking former Labour strongholds in last year's General Election means its MPs now represent some of the areas lagging furthest behind London.

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According to Onward's report, earnings in seats the Conservatives won in 2019 are on average five per cent lower than in Labour-held seats, and houses in Labour seats are worth on average £62,000 more.

The new Levelling Up Taskforce is said to have been set up to "champion ideas to boost Britain’s lagging areas and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make the best of their talents, no matter where they are from." It includes Rother Valley's Alex Stafford, Harrogate's Andrew Jones and Penistone and Stocksbridge's Miriam Cates.

Mr O'Brien, MP for Harborough in Leicestershire, said: “The coronavirus crisis has only made the case for levelling up stronger so we can get the economy moving in areas that are less well off. Our new Taskforce will be spearheading this vital agenda.”

The group will produce a regular newsletter charting progress on levelling up, and producing further publications on ways to spread opportunity and boost growth in poorer areas.

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Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates, a Conservative elected last year, said: "I hope that this Levelling Up Taskforce will help to lead the way in delivering on the promises that so many of us were elected on last year.

"I know from speaking to constituents across Penistone and Stocksbridge that many put their trust in myself and the Conservatives for the first time because they want to see real change in their communities.

"We have so much potential and so much aspiration. But whilst talent is spread evenly across our country, the sad reality is that opportunity isn't.

"People shouldn't have to leave their communities to access high paid jobs or training, nor should they be left isolated by poor public transport.

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"Instead we need to attract new jobs and more investment to develop our local economies. That's why it is so important that we are delivering on our promise to level up every part of the UK, but especially here in Yorkshire."

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