Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, today (Monday 26 March) publishes ‘Growing Up North’, a year-long report looking at the issues and experiences of children growing up in the North today.
Responding, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“This report is a welcome reminder that, while the government’s Northern Powerhouse promises economic regeneration and future prospects, they are in danger of leaving behind the current generation of children growing up in the North.
“There are many wonderful schools in the North, with passionate, dedicated and talented educators. But school budgets are at breaking point. Schools can't improve equality for pupils if they are struggling for money themselves – vital interventions that could improve equality are already disappearing.
“Cuts to local authority budgets have greatly reduced the sources of support for families on low incomes, and schools have been left to pick up the pieces. But government funding is not keeping up with growing costs, and schools are finding they can do less and less.
“In a recent NAHT survey, 65% of school leaders ‘strongly agreed’ that cut backs have already had a negative impact on the performance of their school. 86% of schools have had to cut the hours or numbers of teaching assistants this year, and more than a third have had to cut teaching staff. This means some of the most vulnerable children are losing out on the support they need.
“Primary and secondary schools in and around London have been able to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students that buck the national trend. The additional investment London has seen has improved life chances for millions. This proves that schools can make a real difference when they are fully funded. We have to maintain London funding and match it for areas of the country that still need support.
“It is especially crucial that the government invests thoroughly in early years education. Early years is the critical point for intervention to improve the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help.”
James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said: “It’s good to see this report recognising that better teacher recruitment is vital. A highly skilled and well-motivated team of teachers is essential if you’re going to stand a realistic chance of improving equality for pupils. Certain areas have always struggled to attract teachers, and we need a national strategy for teacher recruitment that recognises teachers as high-status professionals and guarantees enough teachers for every school.”
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