‘Unfair’ school funding puts ‘hundreds of thousands’ of pupils in North at disadvantage

Photo: Unfair school funding puts hundreds of thousands of children in schools in the North at a disadvantage compared with London youngsters, a major report has claimed./Picture by: Barry Batchelor / PA Wire/Press Association Images.
Photo: Unfair school funding puts hundreds of thousands of children in schools in the North at a disadvantage compared with London youngsters, a major report has claimed./Picture by: Barry Batchelor / PA Wire/Press Association Images.

A report has claimed unfair school funding puts hundreds of thousands of children in schools in the North at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts in London.

It has revealed at primary school level, the north of England receives about £4,600 per pupil in grant funding, which is about the national average.

However, this is still £900 less than pupils in London.

While at secondary level, the North receives around £5,700 per pupil, which is £100 less than the English average.

This equates to more than £1000 less than London pupils – £1,300 to be exact.

This has lead to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North and Teach First, a national charity, who created the report, calling for more money to be redistributed to the North to bridge a growing North South divide in academic standards.

One of the report’s authors Jonathan Clifton, who is also associate director for public services at IPPR, said: “Two decades ago London was the worst place to attend school if you were from a low-income background, now London’s disadvantaged pupils achieve better outcomes than those in other parts of the country.

“The successful turnaround of London’s schools shows that educational disadvantage can be tackled though investment, strong leadership and collaboration.

“We need a similar level ambition for schools in the North.

The report also shows substantial variations in performances between regions and local authority areas of the North.

Most local authorities in the North West and North East outperform the English average, while secondary school attainment in some parts of the North is at the stage where educational inequalities widen sharply.

The percentage of children assessed as having a “good level of development” in the North East sits at 63 per cent, with a 2 per cent rise for those in Yorkshire and the Humber (65 per cent), compared with 67 per cent and  70 per cent for London and the South East respectively.

Nationally, 66 per cent of children eligible for free school meals attain level four or above at Key Stage 2 in reading, mathematics and writing, compared with 83 per cent of other children, an attainment gap of 17 percentage points.

Those in the North East and North West actually perform better than the national average, with 67 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals meeting the benchmark.

Following various “city challenge” initiatives in recent years, deprived pupils in city areas have been targeted but despite this, within the  North East, Newcastle and Middlesbrough have some of the lowest results for disadvantaged pupils.

As well as less money, the IPPR North report found many northern schools have a harder job than those in other parts of the country, due to their more “challenging” intake.

But they raise standards better than schools in many other regions and should be compensated for their performance, the study claims.

The report found educational inequalities start before children reach school age, with the gap between children from poor and wealthy homes almost twice as large in the North as in London.

Across the North, 55.5 per cent of pupils attain five good GCSE’s compared with 57.3 per cent across England, and 60.9 per cent  in London.

Among disadvantaged children, only 34 per cent achieve five good GCSE’s in the north of England, compared with a national average of 36.8 per cent and 48.3 per cent in London.

Even in northern schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted there is a gap of 22 percentage points between pupils on free school meals and their better-off peers.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said “At the heart of our education reforms is the mission of ensuring that every child receives an excellent education that enables them to fulfill their potential regardless of circumstances or geography.

“The job is not finished yet though.”

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, added: “Getting a great start through great education is essential in training the engineers, scientists and doctors that will power the northern powerhouse.

“There should be no excuses for low-expectations of pupils’ potential.

“But nor should there be excuses on why schools in the North continually lose out because the funding system is skewed by the capital’s living costs.”

The IPPR North says the lag in school attainment is costing the northern economy £29billion in lost productivity and Chancellor George Osborne’s much talked about plans for a “Northern Powerhouse” driving the economy forward will be hobbled if the education gap is not tackled.

And the think-tank suggests introducing a “Powerhouse premium” in the North for schools in disadvantaged areas, and areas where it is difficult to attract and retain teachers.

The Chancellor announced a £20m Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy in the last budget, but this was dismissed as “spin” by Barnsley’s Labour MP Dan Jarvis.

He said: “I have pressed the Government a number of times on this issue in Parliament and they must now take firmer action, including addressing funding disparities, to improve schools across the North.

“This report clearly shows that when it comes to schooling, the North is being let down.”

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