North vs South

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This week it has been heavily reported that there is a growing North and South divide in secondary schooling across the UK. Ofsted’s annual report on education standards claims that almost a third of secondary schools in the North and Midlands are not at the required level expected.

Ofsted Chief Sir Michael Wilshaw says more attention must be focused on regions where schools are “languishing in mediocrity”. Nicky Morgan has been trying to tackle ‘coasting schools’ since regaining her place as Education Secretary, however the Chief Inspector for Schools warns that in some cities in the North and Midlands schools have “failed miserably year after year after year”.

Sir Michael named 16 local authorities where less than 60% of children attend good or outstanding schools and had below average “attainment and progress” at GCSE. 13 of these authorities were found to be in the Midlands and North of England.

The report showed that secondary schools in the South consistently outperform their northern counterparts in recent GCSE results. Sir Michael warned that this factor is making the UK a divided nation when it comes to education after the age of 11 chief of Ofsted continued to warn that a poor education and divide could lead young people to become alienated in society.

Over 400,000 children are thought to be making less than average progress and will end up achieving below average GCSE grades. The report dismissed the argument that the higher levels of deprivation in northern England could be a factor, due to primary schools being much more successful despite facing similar problems of social disadvantage. “The mediocrity in secondary performance should be a national concern – and the mediocrity is residing mainly, but not exclusively, in the Midlands and North of England”. The Chief of Ofsted believes that these problems were also being exacerbated by difficulties in recruiting and that schools in these challenging areas have the toughest time finding quality teachers in certain subjects.

The Government’s recent tactic has been to convert ‘coasting schools’ into academies. This has led to most secondary schools in England now having academy status. The annual report however stated that in terms of raising the standards, changing the structure of the school can only do so much and gaining academy status doesn’t necessarily protect schools from decline. Roy Perry, Chairman of the Children and Young People Board at the Local Government Association stated how worrying it is that in the last three years only 37% of secondary schools have actually improved their Ofsted rating after becoming academies.

Do you think there really is a North South divide? Michael Wilshaw hasn’t really given an explanation as to why this is occurring? What do you think? Have your say here…

3 thoughts on “North vs South

  1. There seems to be a lot of evidence that areas with high immigant populations, especially first generation immigrants, have a higher regard for the value of education than the indigenous population of this country. This goes a long way to explaining the success of London schools, where this is the case. Also there seems to be a further benefit because the example of hard working immigrants has a motivational effect on non-immigrant students.

    So why do indigenous students underperform? I believe that this is because not only do too many parents have a low regard for the value of education but also they have too high a regard for the rights of their children. So side issues such as uniform, extra holidays, mobile phones and detentions seem to be more important to some parents than the development of their children. Data seems to show that white working class boys are the lowest achievers.

    What are the solutions? I don’t think it’s easy to change the mindsets of parents so it is really up to the school. I believe that schools with low standards need to learn from those schools with high standards, which have a similar cohort. Perhaps Ofsted should insist on this, when it decides a school is inadequate.

  2. Perhaps there is a connection between the lack of potential good employment in the North and Midlands compared with the richer South. Parents play a massive role in modelling work ethos and you need work to show ethos in…

  3. Perhaps because the housing crisis in the South East, combined with the benefit cap, has led to a migration from the South East to the more affordable North of the most socially deprived? Choice can drive up standards in areas where there is a wide range of choice in a small area. That choice does not exist in the North and giving choice has disadvantaged those in low income areas where those parents who care cannot afford travel to school costs. School cohorts become residualised as those that can finance their choices travel or move home to so-called ‘better’ schools.

    If you want choice to drive improvement in socially deprived you have to close schools, fund travel- to any school that is chosen – and persuade parents that having a school on the doorstep is not a right, and can be a disadvantage.

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