The Department for Education needs to “change its culture” if it is to achieve its aims on improving educational development in the north, the mayor for Liverpool City Region told LGC.
The DfE must allow for more devolution if it is to solve the problems outlined in the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s report, published yesterday, Steve Rotheram (Lab) said.
The report, being discussed at a conference in Leeds today, recommended a £300m boost in government funding for disadvantaged areas across the north to reverse an educational gap between the north and south of England.
“Give the likes of [Greater Manchester mayor] Andy Burnham and I a chance to use that money and we’ll develop people with the right skills to educate future generations,” Mr Rotheram said.
The Liverpool City Region mayor, who leads on skills for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said the DfE hadn’t responded “as much as it needs to” on queries over devolution.
“I’ve written to [former education secretary] Justine Greening on a regular basis, saying that we need to do something together to push things forward,” he said.
“We want to work with the regional skills commissioner who currently reports to the secretary of state. If the commissioner can work with us then we can find the local solutions - you can’t do that from Westminster.”
Statistics show that children in the north of England score lower on their GCSE results, achieving one lower GCSE grade than southern students on average.
A quarter of secondary schools in the north are rated by Ofsted as either ‘inadequate’ or ’requiring improvement’.
“The reason for today’s [Northern Powerhouse Partnership] report was to give government the evidence base they asked for - the baseline stats. We’ve now done that and now we can help them [the government] achieve their education targets,” Mr Rotheram said. “If they want to, they can even take all the credit.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Standards are rising thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools since 2010 and nine out of ten schools awarded this rating at their latest inspection.
“We want all pupils to benefit from a world-class education that inspires them to make the most of their lives, no matter where they live or their background. That’s why we launched our social mobility action plan, which sets out a range of actions including targeting the areas that need the most support through the £72m ’opportunity areas’ programme.
“Our recent investment in literacy is also helping to ensure every child arrives at school with the vocabulary levels they need to learn. This builds on the £2.5bn we provide to schools to help raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils through the pupil premium.”
The £72m to be spent, over three years, is for 12 areas - Blackpool, Derby, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Oldham, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent - where underperformance across many phases of the education system is most entrenched.
This story was updated at 17.36 on 2 February to include the DfE’s response