North 'should lead its own schools transformation'

Call by London Challenge chief follows concerns about North-South divide in education

Can the North lead its own school transformation

The man who led the London Challenge believes the North of England should lead the transformation of its own schools.

Sir Tim Brighouse said the North needs to find a way of allowing schools to learn from each other to find “excellence from within".

And he suggested devolution and the creation of metro mayors might provide a way of achieving this.

There have been repeated calls to drive up school standards in the North of England.

Former chancellor George Osborne called on the government to make improving Northern schools its big idea. He said there should be as many pupils attending 'good' schools in the North as there are in London.

The national children’s commissioner Anne Longfield’s report Growing up North highlighted how a pupil from London or the South East is 57 per cent more likely to go on to a top university than one in the North.

However, school improvement experts are calling for the North to find its own answers to closing this gap, rather than looking to the capital.

Sir Tim, who was London schools commissioner from 2002 to 2007 said: “There isn’t any reason why children in the North couldn’t achieve more in school. Of course they could.  The key is getting schools to learn from each other.”

Before working in London, he was a chief education officer in Oxfordshire and Birmingham.

He said: “In each of these places, we improved schools. But in every one of those places, what we did to improve schools was different. There is a different context, of the place, the challenge, where the schools were and the people we had.

“In London and Birmingham, we looked for excellence within and we looked to use people’s sense of pride in a place,” he says. “I’m sure this can be done in the North, too.

Professor Mel Ainscow, who led the Greater Manchester Challenge, also believes devolution provides a chance to drive Northern school improvement.

He is now chairing a board that reports to Mayor Andy Burnham and will work to raise standards across schools in Greater Manchester.

Professor Ainscow said the board's work would involve identifying high performing schools in disadvantaged areas for other schools to learn from.

Leeds Council leader Judith Blake also said devolution should be a trigger for more decision making over education to return to the regions.

She said: “We are looking at the skills agenda and how we rebalance our economy to regenerate the North, but I think there is a recognition that we cannot start this at post-16.

“We need to have more of a say on how the education provision across the North is shaped.”

To read the full story, see the 8 June edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. 

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