Education In The North: Behind The Headlines

We take a look at the evidence provided to the House of Commons Education Select Committee on 'Educating The North'

This paper reflects on the evidence given by George Osborne, Lord O'Neill and Henri Murson from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership ("NPP") to the House of Commons Education Select Committee on 2nd May 2018.

Collective effort

Once the initial and important exchanges regarding the benefits of raising educational performance, first for children's lives and then for economic performance and industrial strategy, were covered, Robert Halfon (Committee Chair) enquired 'why there is so much social disadvantage in terms of education and aspiration in the north?'.

Responding, George Osborne referenced the 'dramatic improvement in the state of London schools' and considered that 'the north has not had that focus … [nor] … a collective effort from national and local Government, the private sector and the teaching profession', which is what the NPP is putting forward.

So what should that 'collective effort' look like?

Centre of excellence

Henri Murison, NPP Director, considered that 'we need a centre to look at what works in

transforming schools in disadvantaged areas, because some schools in the north are getting it right, and some of the best schools in the country for getting kids out of poverty and opening their aspirations up are in the north'. Inevitably, this would require the Department for Education ("DfE") to allocate the necessary funding but would create a centre of specialist expertise of the kind favoured by the DfE previously.

Standards and structures

Recognising that both standards and structures are important, Henri Murison went on to remark that 'a focus on education policy that has been predominantly from Whitehall has meant that no one has ever come to grips properly with the problems that face the north [which] is the reality of the Department being focussed in London'.


The solution to a system where education policy is driven from Whitehall was addressed throughout the rest of the Committee hearing and focussed on the need for devolution to enable decisions to be taken locally based on a close understanding of local need. Much was made of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as a model for bringing together different agencies with 'local convening power' to combine and co-ordinate budgets and decision making to provide an integrated approach to addressing the pressing needs of a particular area.


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