Mention “the Northern Powerhouse” and you may stir up strong emotions within your audience. For some the Northern Powerhouse evokes hope and promise. On the opposite end of the scale, you may encounter bitter resentment or cynicism.
Education up North
In recent headlines, the former Chancellor George Osborne, as the chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, was questioned by the Commons Education Committee on the current state of education in the North of England. You can watch the entire discussion on parliamentlive.tv during which he was quoted as saying:
“You need the national government to say that ‘one of our big ideas is that we are going to improve education in the north of England as part of building a Northern Powerhouse’ ”.
“And we the national government will be judged against this and this is our big plan and we are going to get on with it.”
These comments certainly seem encouraging. We found it very interesting that Mr Osborne’s views echoed the recommendations contained in a recent publication entitled Growing up North: A generation of children await the powerhouse promise. This report was the product of Growing up North (the Project) out of the office of the Children’s Commissioner. We have taken the liberty of conveniently compiling all the headlines to keep you up to date.
As a firm that advocates for business in the region it delighted us to see, the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield declare:
“I am a northerner, and – of course- a proud one at that. Growing up in the North gave me values and attributes that have shaped my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Reporting on growing up in the North
Northern pride aside, the Project complied a report which provides a non-politicised and balanced view of the current situation, within the region, that covers:
- children’s experiences and aspirations;
- how children develop and progress as they grow up;
- offers a stage by stage analysis of education from the early years up to Key Stage 5; and
- a section on devolution and regeneration
In the findings of the report it was affirming to see children feel proud of being a Northerner and are generally optimistic about the future. However, a the dire state of affairs was highlighted in that:
- Too many children are starting school far behind where they should be. Often with special educational needs no one has picked up.
- Children from disadvantaged backgrounds face an education gap that starts before school and widens throughout their education.
- More than half of the secondary schools serving the North’s most deprived communities are judged to be less than good.
- Large numbers of children dropping out of education before they reach 18.
- There is a lack of confidence amongst children in the region; and
- Economic regeneration will mean more jobs or opportunities.
A brighter future for children of the North
In order to ensure a brighter future for the Children of the North, the report makes the following recommendations:
- Children’s prospects should be placed at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse and given the same attention as economic regeneration;
- Government should provide additional investment in the most disadvantaged areas to support local councils and partners to improve children’s outcomes and life chances – this should start in the North;
- Extra support for families to give their children the best start in life;
- Earlier identification of special educational needs should be a public health priority;
- A new northern schools programme should be established to improve leadership and governance, boost recruitment and dramatically improve children’s attainment in the most disadvantaged areas;
- Reform the role of Regional Schools Commissioner;
- Northern areas need to stop children dropping out of education early;
- Local Enterprise Partnerships need to expand their programmes to bring employers and schools together to widen children’s horizons and open up job prospects; and
- Arts, culture and sports bodies should prioritise funding for children with disadvantaged backgrounds.
This showcases that in order to combat poor education, we need to address factors which impact on a child’s education systematically. This is not limited to a mere partnership between the parents and the school. It requires networking and partnership across various stakeholders and sectors such as national government, social welfare, holistic health, sports and art, and local community participation.
In closing, our Education Team shares and embodies the sentiments expressed by the Children’s Commissioner to accept the challenge and get the job done:
There is a real sense of energy across the North of England, a feeling that now is the time to change old narratives and to use Northern grown solutions to ensure a more prosperous future for all children.
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