Unfair school funding puts pupils in the North at disadvantage, report claims


Unfair school funding puts hundreds of thousands of children in schools in the North at a disadvantage compared with London youngsters, a major report has claimed.

It reveals at primary school level, the north of England receives about £4,600 per pupil in grant funding, about the national average, but £900 less than London, and at secondary level, the North receives around £5,700 per pupil, £100 less than the English average and £1,300 less than London.

More money should be redistributed to the North to bridge a growing North South divide in academic standards, according to the study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North and Teach First, a national charity.

As well as less money, the IPPR North report found many northern schools have a harder job than those in other parts of the country, due to their more "challenging" intake.

But they raise standards better than schools in many other regions and should be compensated for their performance, the study claims.

The 50-page report uses the North to comprise the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions.

Jonathan Clifton, associate director for public services at IPPR, and one of the report's authors, said: "Two decades ago London was the worst place to attend school if you were from a low-income background, now London's disadvantaged pupils achieve better outcomes than those in other parts of the country.

"The successful turnaround of London's schools shows that educational disadvantage can be tackled though investment, strong leadership and collaboration. We need a similar level ambition for schools in the North."

The report found educational inequalities start before children reach school age, with the gap between children from poor and wealthy homes almost twice as large in the North as in London.

But while primary schools in the North perform in line with the England average, secondary schools are a big concern.

Across the North, 55.5% of pupils attain five good GCSEs, compared with 57.3% across England, and 60.9% in London.

Amongst disadvantaged children, only 34% achieve five good GCSEs in the north of England, compared with a national average of 36.8% and 48.3% in London. 

Even in northern schools rated "outstanding" by Ofsted there is a gap of 22 percentage points between pupils on free school meals and their better-off peers.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said 1.4 million more children are in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, and the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is falling.

She added: "At the heart of our education reforms is the mission of ensuring that every child receives an excellent education that enables them to fulfil their potential regardless of circumstances or geography. The job is not finished yet though."

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: "Getting a great start through great education is essential in training the engineers, scientists and doctors that will power the northern powerhouse.

"There should be no excuses for low-expectations of pupils' potential. But nor should there be excuses on why schools in the North continually lose out because the funding system is skewed by the capital's living costs."

The IPPR North says the lag in school attainment is costing the northern economy £29 billion in lost productivity and Chancellor George Osborne's much talked about plans for a "Northern Powerhouse" driving the economy forward will be hobbled if the education gap is not tackled.

And the think-tank suggests introducing a "Powerhouse premium" in the North for schools in disadvantaged areas, and areas where it is difficult to attract and retain teachers.

The Chancellor announced a £20m Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy in the last budget, but this was dismissed as "spin" by Barnsley's Labour MP Dan Jarvis.

He said: "I have pressed the Government a number of times on this issue in Parliament and they must now take firmer action, including addressing funding disparities, to improve schools across the North.

"This report clearly shows that when it comes to schooling, the North is being let down."