23 May, 2016

Tackle pupil attainment gap in northern England, IPPR urges

Tackling the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils is the key to improving the performance of schools in northern England, a report has said.

The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research says northern secondary schools lag behind the England average.

The report echoes Ofsted’s warning that without better education, the government’s Northern Powerhouse economic plan will “splutter and die”.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said ongoing reforms had helped poor pupils.

The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is “falling”, but “the job is not finished yet”, she said.

Despite a few “beacons of success”, there are large attainment gaps in the pre-school years as well as at secondary level, the report said.

However, primary schools are performing in line with national averages and some local authorities have levels of attainment for disadvantaged children to rival London.


A focus on failing schools will not solve the problem, say the authors, as “even good and outstanding schools have attainment gaps”.

“Policy makers should focus on tackling variation within all schools,” they urge.

This problem is not restricted to small towns and coastal areas, often singled out as areas where pupils perform poorly.

“Even large cities such as Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield need to raise their game.”

The report also points out discrepancies in school funding between regions, and backs government plans to improve funding to northern schools through a newnational funding formula.

In the north, annual funding per secondary pupil is about £5,700 compared with about £7,000 in London, the report says.