CHILDREN who grow up in the north of England’s most deprived areas are “being left behind” as a result of poor schools and entrenched disadvantage. In some communities, 15 per cent of under-18s drop out of education early, a report has said.
The study, Growing Up North, says that, despite the Government’s Northern Powerhouse plan, greater investment is needed in struggling schools and communities.
Last month, the Church insisted that its schools in the north of England “strive to deliver a rounded education”.
The author of the report, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, wrote in the introduction: “Children in some areas look at new developments in the North but have little hope they might feel the benefits or have increased choices in life as a result.”
Mrs Longfield said that “there are more disadvantaged communities in the North than many other areas of the country, and many of those have entrenched disadvantages over several generations. . .
”Hundreds of thousands of children face a double disadvantage of living in a poor community and attending a poor school”.
After spending a year researching deprived areas, she recommends that the poorest children are put at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse plan.
The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said: “We are proud that Church of England schools serve some of the most disadvantaged communities in the north of England, and do so in a way that strives to deliver a rounded education that enables students to achieve well and flourish as human beings.”
One million children in England attend a C of E school, and the Church is responsible for more than 200 secondary schools across the country.
The report shows that there is a huge gap between the poorest children in the north and the poorest in the south, particularly in London and the Thames Valley.
Fifty-four per cent of schools in the most deprived areas in Northern City Regions are in the “requires improvement” or “inadequate” bands, compared with just 13 per cent in London.
Of the ten regions with the highest proportion of children in receipt of free school meals, eight are in the north. The progress of those children on free school meals is also far more limited in the north, compared with the rest of the country.
Mrs Longfield wrote: “Children in receipt of free school meals in London are 40 per cent more likely to get good GCSE results in Maths and English, and two times more likely to go to university than children receiving free school meals in the North.”
Last month, the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, called on the Government to review proposals for changes to free school meals in line with the planned reform of Universal Credit. From 1 April, children in Year 3 and above on Universal Credit in England are now not normally eligible if their parents earn more than £7400.
Bishop Foster told the House of Lords: “For working families just below the current threshold, this proposal would very clearly not make extra work pay. They would be better off not seeking more paid work and leaving their children on free school meals, unless their family income increased by some considerable margin.
“Those just above the threshold will be worse off under the regulations, facing school-meal charges. They would be better off working less.”
Supporting a motion that asked the Government to delay implementing changes, he told peers: “We are potentially creating anxiety, even despair, when we should offer hope and support. We are creating a cliff edge so that work does not pay.”
The motion was passed by 167 votes to 160 on Tuesday 20 March.
The Government has also announced new funding for organisations to research ways of supporting disadvantaged families during the school holidays.
The Labour MP Frank Field said that the plan “sets the country on a path towards ensuring all children, regardless of their background, are able to eat well and continue to learn and develop during the holidays”.