Northern Powerhouse Minister must be based here to succeed – The Yorkshire Post says

THE NORTH-South attainment gap was a national crisis – even embarrassment – long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck or the Education Policy Institute published its critical research.

The Government is being urged to do more to narrow the North-South attainment divide.

It was so pronounced that Boris Johnson put the issue at the forefront of his election manifesto last year when the Tories captured once impregnable ‘red wall’ seats across the North.

Now the reopening of all schools next month, coinciding with the start of a new academic year, provides a timely opportunity for the Government to advance and accelerate its so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda.

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But this requires the Department for Education making a far greater commitment – both in financial and policy terms – after Lord Jim O’Neill, a founding father of the Northern Powerhouse, criticised its indifference and record in The Yorkshire Post last Saturday.

What more can be done to boost education performance in the North?

And this newspaper still maintains that the entire Northern Powerhouse project requires a Cabinet-level big-hitter, and their key staff, being a based in this region, and galvanising the public and private sector, rather than being an addendum to the transport brief held by Grant Shapps.

Yet, while Mr Shapps is, in fairness, a strong advocate for the North, he has become understandably preoccupied by Covid-19 and, therefore, has insufficient time, for example, to ensure that the DfE is putting bespoke measures in place that will help disadvantaged youngsters here to begin to realise their potential.

Like the decision taken by previous governments to invest in London’s schools because they were under-performing, this is a one-off chance to ensure that every child receives the best possible start to life – a world-class education. It is also an opportunity that Mr Johnson should seize rather than allowing such a flagship policy to be left to the vagaries of politics.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson