Children in the north of England are falling behind because of a ‘double whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools’, a study has concluded.
Pupils in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber are less likely to do well in secondary school, more likely to go to a poor school and more likely to leave education early.
The report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, found that a child on free school meals living in Hackney, London, was three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool.
London children on free school meals were 40% more likely to achieve a good maths and English GCSE grade than children in the North.
More than half of the schools serving the North’s most deprived communities were below a ‘good’ rating, the report added, as they endured the problems of weak leadership, poor governance and difficulties recruiting staff.
The commissioner has called on the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project to give youngsters the same attention as economic regeneration, otherwise she warned its promise would not be fulfilled.
Mrs Longfield said: ‘Children growing up in the North love and are proud of the place they live.
‘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 Northern Powerhouse and the new devolved mayors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive that ambition.
‘The Northern Powerhouse will only succeed if children are put at the heart of the project.
‘If the North is to flourish it needs to grow and retain the talents of all its children and truly offer the opportunities in life they hope for.’
Among the report’s recommendations are improving the North’s secondary schools in the most deprived areas as a ‘priority’ with a renewed focus on teaching recruitment and leadership.
Otley-born Mrs Longfield, who still lives in West Yorkshire, also calls for each local area 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.
He said: ‘As the Children’s Commissioner notes, many children in the north are now thriving, but there is more to do.
‘Our Northern Powerhouse programme includes £3.4 billion investment in projects to boost the local economy, £12 million to spread good teaching practice in English and improve early literacy, and schemes that help families to support their child’s education at home.’