Growing North South gap

23rd September 2022

Over the summer, the North East received exam results that reflected a widening gap between the North and the South of the country.

GCSE, A Level, T Levels and BTEC results released in August saw increases for the region in top grades since 2019, however also highlighted the result of the pandemic on schools and the exacerbation of already high levels of deprivation in the North East.

Results are in

In A Level, T Level and BTec, we saw the gap between North East and South East rise from 5.3% to 8.7%. Similarly, the region’s GCSE results had the joint lowest grades (with Yorkshire and Humber), with the gap between London and the North East rising from 9.3% to 10.2%. 

Government policy has failed to recognise the unequal impact of the pandemic, especially in the North East. Students in the region missed around 15% of school sessions compared with around 11% in London and the South East. Across the country, disadvantaged pupils missed 17.1% of sessions compared with 9.6% of non-disadvantaged.

The North East Child Poverty Commission released a report this week that stated:

“the gap between the living standards of children in the region compared to the UK average has reached a twenty-year high – and this is part of a clear trajectory that began around 2014/15, well before Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis.”

Despite these worrying statistics, it does not come as a shock from many school leaders, who understand that the numbers don’t reflect the hardwork and effort of the region’s schools.

These are the first exams sat ‘normally’ since the start of the pandemic and in spite of the widening gap, the North East saw increases in top grades compared to those taken in 2019.

Not fit for purpose

To address the inequality in education and deprivation, Schools North East teamed up with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) and SHINE to write a letter to parliament voicing their concerns and recommendations.

The NPP is a leading voice for business and civic leaders across the region, prioritising a rebalancing of the UK economy, focusing upon transport, devolution and education. SHINE is an education charity that works with teachers, schools, and other organisations, helping disadvantaged children in the North of England to fulfil their true potential.

The joint letter to the government was covered widely by the media, helping to spread the message of inequality for North East Schools. It stated:

“Our schools are not the problem, and they need adequate resources to unlock the potential of their pupils. This highlights the importance of using locally-led solutions to tackle education challenges. Education policy has taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach too often.“

Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East commented:

“While there is a growing North-South divide in educational attainment, it is wrong to suggest that this is due to a divide in school performance. The truth is that our current measurements of school performance are not fit for purpose, and that too often economic and geographical factors are mistakenly presented as educational ones. And that leads us to perpetuating ineffectual policy.

Schools in areas of high-impact, long-term deprivation require much greater support to ensure that their students can achieve their full potential. It is vital that schools have a comprehensive education recovery plan, with the right resources targeted to where they are needed.”

To read the letter to parliament click here:

Read the North East Child Poverty Commission report ‘Getting the building blocks wrong: Early childhood poverty in the North East‘ by clicking here:

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