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Think-tank reveals North-South divide between early years attainment

Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

Less than half of children born into the poorest families in the North of England reach a good standard of development by the time they are five years’ old, according to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The think-tank’s annual ‘State of the North’ report revealed that the poorest children born in the North of the country are also falling behind their peers born into poverty in London, in a stark ‘early years gap’.

Director at IPPR North, Ed Cox, said: “We will never become a powerhouse economy when our children and young people have such a poor start in life. “It will take a generation of investment: not only in new railways and motorways, but in the ‘human capital’ of the North – in education and training, starting with the youngest.

“If the Northern Powerhouse is to be successful, economic powers must be devolved to all corners of the North to allow businesses and policy makers to develop an economy that supports more productive, resilient and sustainable growth: jobs that pay well, prosperity that is shared, and opportunities for all.”

Research conducted by IPPR found that just 47 per cent of children born into the poorest families in the North of England achieve a good level of early years development, compared with 59 per cent in London.

In addition, the report identified that only a third of children entitled to free school meals in the North of England go on to receive the standard of five GCSEs A*- C, including English and Maths.

The report stated: ‘If the Government wants to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ it must first close the gap in the development of children aged under five’.

Commenting on the findings in the report, a Department for Education spokesman said: “Ensuring every child, regardless of their background, can fulfil their potential is part of this Government’s core mission to extend opportunity to all.

“We know the first few years of a child’s life are vital and evidence shows the better the childcare, the higher the quality of learning and development.

He added: “Our Early Years Pupil Premium is giving providers extra funds to help young children from disadvantaged backgrounds and to close the attainment gap.

“Our reforms and the hard work of schools has meant there are 250,000 more pupils that have moved onto good or outstanding schools in the North since 2010.

“This has also been reflected in the latest GCSE results but we want that trend to continue which is why we are investing another £10 million to help high performing academy sponsors share their expertise with Northern counterparts.”

Mr Cox concluded: “If the Northern Powerhouse is to drive national prosperity, these figures show the challenges it must overcome to become a reality.”


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