Anne Longfield, who leaves the role she has held for the past six years at the end of the month, has made an impassioned plea to Ministers to ensure that millions of pounds in funding are poured into the North’s schooling to ensure that huge regional disparities in attainment are tackled.
In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, Mrs Longfield has outlined the devastating impact which the Covid-19 crisis has had on education, as many children have been in classrooms for only a matter of weeks in the past year due to repeated lockdowns.
The Yorkshire-born Children’s Commissioner said: “The educational outcomes in Yorkshire were far below those of London and the South-East before coronavirus arrived, but now there is a real risk those regional differences will be heightened even further.
“Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the whole of society, but without the necessary intervention from the Government to rocket-boost the North of England’s education system, the effects will be felt for years to come.”
The figures have revealed that as many as 60 per cent of pupils receiving free school meals in London’s local education authority areas are achieving the top six grades in their GCSE examinations.
By contrast, that figure for pupils’ attainment for their GCSE exams in local education authority areas in Yorkshire and the Humber slumps to between just 35 and 45 per cent.
Ms Longfield said: “The striking issue is that London is so far ahead, that even the worst local authorities in the capital are better than nearly all of those in Yorkshire and the Humber.
“The figures also show that most London local authorities are better than even the best ones in Yorkshire and the Humber.
“This is something that has to be addressed, and if the Government is serious about its agenda of levelling up the country, then the time is now to prove it.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education stressed Ministers are investing millions of pounds to improve opportunities for children across the country.
The spokesman added: “Talent is evenly distributed throughout the country but we know in many cases opportunity is not. This Government is committed to levelling up outcomes for every young person, no matter where they live.
“This Government is committed to levelling up outcomes for every young person, no matter where they live.
“Our new teaching hubs, with 20 across the North, will focus on improving the quality of teaching so every child receives an excellent start to their education.
“Our 10-year school rebuilding programme includes substantial investment in the North and we have announced more than £10m to improve schools sports and swimming facilities.
“We are focusing our catch-up efforts and providing devices to disadvantaged children throughout the pandemic.
“On top of this, we are investing £90m over four years in 12 Opportunity Areas – including five in the North – and up to £24 million as part of Opportunity North-East to improve outcomes and boost the aspirations of young people in the North-East.”