It really is grim up North

12th October 2012 at 01:00

My faith in humanity and people in sandals has been restored by news that the Liberal Democrats have voted to block plans for regional pay. This threat has been rumbling away in the background for some time now. It last hit the headlines in August with the release of a controversial University of Bristol study which suggested that homogenised pay for teachers was disadvantaging the South. Since then we northerners have been running scared.

The study, which had Daily Mail readers choking on their cereal, suggested that the national pay agreement for teachers was responsible for lowering GCSE grades in more affluent parts of the South. Well, forgive me for not screaming and wailing and gnashing my teeth. The report stated that schools were unable to attract "good" teachers because of competition from the pumped-up private sector, which was also driving up property prices. As a result, a modest village starter home with solid oak flooring and an Italian marble kitchen was out of the reach of most teachers. With invincible logic, the researchers went on to suggest that the best way to tackle the recruitment problem was to pay northerners tuppence so that teachers in the Cotswolds could buy converted barns.

Now, while house prices in the North are significantly lower, they are cheap for a reason. Our economy is resistant to private sector inflation because there is NO private sector. If you're not cleaning hospital wards, emptying bins or teaching then you're probably unemployed. The only private jobs around here involve slapping fried onions on burgers or selling drugs to kids on council estates. So it's hardly surprising that you can get on the property ladder for under #163;70,000, but by God does it come at a price.

Before you fling your belongings into a Pickfords van, here are a few home truths that estate agent blurbs - and the Bristol report - significantly choose to ignore. Unemployment near me is the highest in the country: 10.4 per cent compared with 5.7 per cent in the South West. And while you might luck out on a teaching job, your partner is likely to be stuck at home, eating crisps and swearing at the telly. Which possibly explains why our mortality rate is so high.

My house is in an ex-mining village. If you live in my street you are 20 per cent more likely to peg out before 75 than if you live in the South. And since both my parents died at 62, it's a statistic that hits home hard. In fact, as the British Medical Journal (BMJ) points out, the north-south mortality divide is now at its highest rate for 40 years. And if you compare similar socio-economic groups from the North and South, the health inequality persists. Something other than a shortage of cash is driving us to an early grave. According to the BMJ, our "lack of education, transport and other large-scale resources" are significant factors. The Institute for Public Policy Research gives this further credence: it found that the transport spend in the North East is #163;5 per head compared with a whopping great #163;2,700 per head in London. No wonder our kids are late for school. All things considered, it's a miracle they arrive at all.

So, given the hidden hardships we face, you can see why the Lib Dem vote was a step in the right direction. Because there are no real advantages to teaching in the North, other than pulling down a decent wage and never running into Toby Young in the local Spar.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England. @AnnethropeMs.

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