Pupils in North being left behind by southern counterparts, says new report
Children in the north of England are being left behind by their southern counterparts as they face a "double whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools", a study has concluded.
The report by the Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, says pupils in the North East, North West, 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.
It 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.
And London children on free school meals are 40% more likely to achieve a good maths and English GCSE grade than children in the North.
More than half 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.
"While many children in the North are thriving, there are huge gaps between the poorest Northern kids and those in the South.
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"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.
"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 the requirement of 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."