Northern mayors should be given greater control over higher education budgets to boost education rates and national productivity, according to a new report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
The report proposes a £300m boost in government funding for disadvantaged areas across the north, to be distributed via a system of place-based funds.
It also calls for reforms to the pupil premium funding mechanism for children from low income families, a new schools improvement board, and a commitment to provide 900,000 “meaningful” work experience programs by local businesses.
Former chancellor George Osborne, who championed devolution and is now chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which he helped set up, wrote in the report’s foreword that boosting training and education would help lift the national economy.
“Too many children in the north aren’t getting the education they need or deserve,” he said.
Statistics show that children in the north are, on average, performing less well at school that children from other parts of the UK. Northern students attain, on average, one lower GCSE grade than their southern counterparts.
A quarter of secondary schools in the north are rated by Ofsted as either ’inadequate’ or ’requiring improvement’.
Last week, the Centre for Cities think-tank reported that educational reforms and better retraining centres were needed to counter the negative effects of automation and globalisation - particularly in the north.
A number of northern leaders have spoken in support of the report’s finding.
Steve Rotheram (Lab), mayor for the Liverpool City Region, said: “Without a focus on education and skills, the gap between the north and London will continue to grow. If our people are our greatest economic asset we can’t allow so much talent to remain unfulfilled.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake (Lab) said she was “pleased” with the report’s call for greater devolution of the adult education budget.
“We fully support the report’s highlight of the need to identify… clear career pathways for teenagers as a vital ingredient for tackling the productivity challenge,” Cllr Blake said.