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The Children's Commissioner for England has said the Government must put youngsters at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse project after a report has shown children in northern regions are falling behind their southern counterparts.

Anne Longfield said children in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber are more likely to go to a poor school, do less well at secondary level, and leave school early.

Her report found that a child on free school meals living in Hackney, east London, was three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool.

And in London, children on free school meals were 40% more likely to achieve a good maths and English GCSE grade than those in northern England.

Image:Pupils in northern England are less likely to do well in secondary school

The report added that over half of the schools serving the North's most deprived communities were below a "good" rating because of weak leadership, poor governance and difficulties recruiting staff.

Mrs Longfield warned the Government that its Northern Powerhouse promise would not be fulfilled unless "children are put at the heart of the project".

"Children growing up in the North love and are proud of the place they live," she said.

"They want a future where they live near their family and community and they want jobs and opportunities to rival anywhere else in the country."

The Olympic stadium is seen beyond the rooftops of Hackney Wick
Image:A deprived child in Hackney is three times more likely to go to university than a youngster in Hartlepool

She added: "The Northern Powerhouse and the new devolved mayors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive that ambition.

"While many children in the North are thriving, there are huge gaps between the poorest northern kids and those in the South.

"Too many children in the North are facing the double whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools. They are being left behind.

"We need to ask why a child from a low income family in London is three times more likely to go to university than a child who grows up in Hartlepool."

Pupils learning work skills in Warrington
Image:Mrs Longfield wants youngsters to be in apprenticeships, training or education until they are 18

Mrs Longfield recommended improving the North's secondary schools in the most deprived areas as a "priority" with a renewed focus on teaching recruitment and leadership.

She also called for "local areas" to have a plan to ensure children are in apprenticeships, training or education until the age of 18.

A Government spokesman said it was investing in schools in the north and in projects that improve pupils' chances from an early age.

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"As the Children's Commissioner notes, many children in the north are now thriving, but there is more to do," he said.

"Our Northern Powerhouse programme includes £3.4bn investment in projects to boost the local economy, £12m to spread good teaching practice in English and improve early literacy, and schemes that help families to support their child's education at home."

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