"Accelerating" the growth of multi academy trusts (MATS) is the key to driving up educational standards in the north, a government report says.
It adds that all northern local authorities – some of whom had been “deliberately obstructive of academisation” – should encourage and help the growth of strong and effective MATs.
Stand-alone or small academy trusts should consider merging to build more "sustainable" chains, it says.
Sir Nick Weller, chief executive of the Bradford-based Dixons Academies Trust, was commissioned to write the report by former chancellor George Osborne, and former education secretary Nicky Morgan.
His document, A Northern Powerhouse School Strategy, published today, focuses on teacher recruitment, leadership, and the “very wide gap” in the achievement of disadvantaged children and their peers.
Sir Nick wrote: “I believe that accelerating growth of MATs is key to driving up standards in the north. We need to grow our own capacity in the north, while learning from the experience of successful large MATs here and elsewhere.”
He added there was “strong evidence” that academisation had not been as successful in the north as elsewhere, particularly in areas of high disadvantage.
He wrote: “To go further faster, I believe we need to be more challenging to successful schools in the north, who should feel a moral imperative to support struggling schools through sponsorship arrangements.”
He also calls for more diversity in schools where there is a "mono-cultural disadvantage”, singling out white working class children in former mining towns, and Pakistani children in former mill towns.
He said the DfE should review the admissions code to clarify how schools can encourage greater diversity, adding: “Schools with high concentrations of mono-cultural disadvantage should consider how changing their admissions policy might encourage a more diverse mix of students, for example randomised selection from a city-wide or whole-town catchment.”
The report’s 27 recommendations also include a call for the DfE to pilot a new ‘Teach North’ scheme which would attract newly-qualified teachers to disadvantaged schools in the region.
The report also highlights figures showing only 49 per cent of children eligible for free school meals in the north show a good level of development aged five, compared to 59 per cent in London. It cited research showing how the gap widens at primary and secondary school.
Sir Nick called for the DfE to commission research on this gap in the north, and finding ways to close it.