Northern Powerhouse think tank says improving secondary education in the North is top priority

Think tank chaired by George Osborne cites “overwhelming evidence” that attainment at age 16 is “too low” in the North, hindering future generation of region’s employees’ chances of reaching their potential.

nppA new report published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership says improving educational attainment at 16 should be a priority in the development of the Northern Powerhouse and suggests that eliminating the gap with the rest of the UK in the percentage of good and outstanding secondary schools can be done by building on the approach of the Wilshaw report.

However, education in the North East is grossly underfunded compared to the rest of the country, lagging national average funding by £45m a year, and despite the Government’s plans to distribute the national budget in a fairer way to schools, the North East would only benefit from 0.0058% more of the national share of funding.

The Northern Powerhouse Education Fund is mentioned as an important initiative and evidence of “clear awareness in national government”.

If this fund can repeat some of the apparent catalytic role that the Schools Challenge did for London, then this would be important. We need to understand the various factors that contributed to the success of this initiative, including demographic change and how funding impacts on targeted communities and cohorts. However it is heartening that London’s educational attainment has improved so much over the past 20 years as this suggests that with the right policies and ambition, it is possible to improve educational outcomes.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership will commission a group of leading employers and education experts to come together to draw on the latest evidence and thinking to examine a number of key issues in order to develop the technical and higher level skills “employers need in order to compete”.

The report also mentions the following ambitions the North should aim to achieve:

• Raise attainment at age 16 in English and Maths in the North to be at least the national average, and for the North to be regarded as a leading European region in digital skills at age 16;
• Be a net importer of graduates, particularly in science and technology skills to support growth in the prime capabilities.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), an independent body launched in September 2016 by former Chancellor George Osborne to “bring together the voice of business and civic leaders across the North”.

In November last year, the Government published Sir Nick Weller’s independent review into education in the Northern Powerhouse, containing a series of recommendations around building teaching and leadership capacity, school improvement, raising standards and closing the gap, and curriculum. SCHOOLS NorthEast published a summary of the report here.

The full report can be viewed here.

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