New research published today by New Schools Network and the thinktank Onward argues the Government must act radically to tackle regional disparities and ‘level up’ opportunity.
The report, Lost Learning: Why we need to level up education, found families in some areas have little chance of securing access to a Good or Outstanding school – such as in South Derbyshire, where every secondary school is underperforming, and Knowsley and Boston, where 80% of secondary pupils attend schools rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement. This compares to other parts of the country, particularly in London, where almost every school is rated Good or Outstanding.
Regional disparities leave hundreds of thousands of families unable to secure a good school place, holding back the potential of young people in some of England’s most ‘left behind’ communities. The report found over 200,000 primary age children every year grow up in areas with no Good or Outstanding schools, and areas including Nottingham, Hartlepool, and Middlesbrough have ranked amongst the worst for GCSE outcomes since 1998.
The report urges ministers to implement a range of interventions to level up opportunity across the country, including ranking academy trusts on outcomes in areas of underperformance, with funding to support sustained improvement; offering the best teachers an annual stipend of £10,000 to work in areas of entrenched underperformance; close persistently failing schools and open new ‘Phoenix’ free schools in their place; and replace the Opportunity Areas programme with a package of much stronger interventions to overhaul outcomes in left behind areas.
Unity Howard, Director of New Schools Network, said: “Though many of the reforms of the past decade have been hugely successful, they have not reached all areas of the country and too many families remain unable to access a good education. This report outlines how to build on previous achievements with clear policy proposals to invest in young people and level up ambition across England.”
The report has been backed by several MPs and leading educators, including:
Jonathan Gullis MP, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and member of the Education Select Committee: “In my constituency, there is only one outstanding secondary school and this is reflected in Progress 8 scores being the seventh lowest in the country. If we are to successfully give young people the opportunities they deserve, we must start with providing them with a brilliant education in the place they call home. The recommendations within this report would go a long way to direct the leaders in school improvement into the places which have previously been home to entrenched underperformance.”
Lucy Heller, Chief Executive of Ark: “This report sets out a strong and clear case for significant investment in education with a particular focus on improving outcomes for the most disadvantaged. Government would be wise to consider seriously its recommendations.”
Katharine Birbalsingh, Headmistress of Michaela Community School: “A fascinating analysis of how schools enable social mobility, with suggestions on how to make this happen everywhere.”
Martyn Oliver, CEO of Outwood Grange Academies Trust: "This report contains the ambitious and bold plans that are necessary for us to not only build back stronger but to level-up our education system. All children, everywhere, deserve an excellent education: it is in everyone's interest that we succeed in this national priority.”