Children in North of England 'being left behind' due to deprivation and poor schools

The Children's Commissioner says more than half of secondary schools in the most deprived areas of the north are underperforming. Credit: PA

Too many children in the North of England are being “badly let down” by a “double-whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools”, the Children’s Commissioner has warned.

Anne Longfield’s ‘Growing Up North’ report demands efforts to improve the prospects of children from the poorest backgrounds here are placed “at the heart” of the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, and given the same attention as economic regeneration.

The year-long project found that children here are “too often left behind” - and there are “huge gaps” between the achievement of the most disadvantaged pupils from the north and their counterparts in the south.

It said: “hundreds of thousands of children face a double disadvantage of living in a poor community and attending a poor school.”

The report recommends the government provides extra funding to help schools struggling with tight budgets, and suggests a 10-year Northern Schools Programme to boost standards.

The Children’s Commissioner for England’s key findings include:

  • The North East in particular has some of the best primary schools in the country, but standards at many secondary schools here are poor

  • 54% of secondary schools serving our most deprived communities are judged by inspectors to be less than good, with particular problems recruiting the best staff

  • High numbers of children here are dropping out of school too early, missing vital parts of their education and undermining their future prospects

  • A child from a disadvantaged background in Hackney in London is three times more likely to go to university than a child from a disadvantaged background in Hartlepool

  • Many children are not yet feeling the benefits of northern regeneration

The report says there are currently powerful opportunities to close north-south educational gaps, thanks the Northern Powerhouse - the scheme set up by former Chancellor George Osborne to regenerate the North of England - and devolution initiatives, such as the introduction of regional mayors in places including the Tees Valley.

Ms Longfield's role is independent of government and parliament.

Her recommendations include:

  • More government investment in the most disadvantaged areas in the north, particularly helping to improve secondary schools

  • A 10-year Northern Schools Programme, focused particularly on recruiting the best teachers, similar to the London Challenge which was successful in raising standards in the capital

The government has said it is continuing to invest in schemes to improve children’s educational achievement, particularly in the North of England.