It is an issue which is also integral to the region’s future economic prosperity. Unless more students from this region complete their formal studies with the qualifications that will allow them to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, Yorkshire – and the North – will remain at a disadvantage.
Yet, while business and political leaders have highlighted the importance of skill as part of policy debates on the Northern Powerhouse and also Yorkshire devolution, this is another issue, like transport, where the Government has not shown the necessary urgency. Though the longstanding funding formula for schools has been refined to redress some imbalances, Ministers have still to heed calls for Yorkshire to receive the level of investment enjoyed by the capital when the ‘London Challenge’ was launched. Then schools in London were amongst the worst in the country. Now they are regarded as the very best thanks to unparalleled investment. And while academic results in Yorkshire have steadily improved in recent years, the North-South divide is still stark.
It is why reductions in teaching posts, classroom assistants and ancillary support are so disturbing. Not only does the loss of 850 staff in the past year mean that there is less support available for pupils, but the region’s pupil-teacher ratio is now the second highest in the country and experienced teachers – those with the most to offer – are leaving the profession in perturbing numbers. As such, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has some important homework to complete if he is to make the grade – what more will he do to boost the recruit and retention of teachers, and when will Yorkshire receive sufficient funding to meet its needs and potential?