Children’s Commissioner: ‘Northern children face double whammy of economic disadvantage and ineffective schools’

Children growing up in Northern England face a double whammy of embedded economic disadvantage and ineffective schools, according to a new report from England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield.

The key findings in Growing Up North, launched in Leeds on Monday, are:

  • Nursery attendance is higher in the North, but children are still less likely to achieve the expected level of development before starting school;
  • More than half of the schools serving the North’s most deprived communities are graded below “Good” by Ofsted;
  • Compared with the national average, many more children in the North are starting school with high levels of development issues, with fewer children in the North having special educational needs diagnosed before they start school;
  • Significant numbers of children across the North are leaving school too early;
  • In many Northern areas girls are particularly disadvantaged.
  • Northern schools who contributed to the report held a negative view of the effectiveness of the Regional Schools Commissioner for the North.

The Children’s Commissioner recommended:

  • Increased investment to support children in the most disadvantaged Northern areas;
  • A co-ordinated programme to boost teacher recruitment and retention;
  • Partnerships between schools and business to raise pupils’ aspirations; and
  • “Family hubs” to help families who are struggling.

The Children’s Commissioner’s contribution is the latest in a series of recent reports criticising the standard of education in Northern schools. However, more in-depth research by Education DataLab has suggested that the gap between North and South has more to do with demographics than school effectiveness. it is well known that the progress of White British children, which make up the majority of the school-age population in the North, is broadly similar to London.

As reported in last week’s SCHOOLS NorthEast newsletter, Education Secretary Damian Hinds was pressed by the House of Commons Education Select Committee as to whether the Department’s ‘Opportunity Areas’ scheme, which provides funds for tackling entrenched disadvantage, would be implemented in the North East, but was non-committal in his response.

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