Steve Rotheram calls on government to engage with the Liverpool City Region on education and skills devolution

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, has welcomed the “broad thrust” of recommendations outlined in a report from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, that has found too many children in the North of England are falling behind other parts of the UK and has called on the government “to engage” with the region to address skills shortages.

In the report, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership identified three major factors affecting the next generation: the importance of a child’s early years in their future development; how disadvantage drastically impairs performance and leaves them behind the rest of the UK when they leave school; and the need for businesses across the North to play a much bigger role in providing meaningful experience of work.

The report proposes a number of recommendations to government, including:

  • An initial £300m increase in government funding for disadvantaged areas across the North, creating place-based funds integrated with other services such as health visitors and voluntary sector providers, ensuring every child is school-ready by age five.

  • Metro Mayors and areas receiving further devolution deals to control the Adult Education Budget as well as overall vocational education spending from 16-18.

  • Reform Pupil Premium to better target funding for disadvantage by allocating more to pupils eligible for free school meals throughout their schooling, addressing the most entrenched barriers to social mobility.

  • Every Northern business to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise skills to at least the same number of young people as they have employees, from the age of 11. This would see 900,000 young people given experience of work.

  • A longer-term government commitment to Opportunity Areas – a Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board to be established, drawing together existing funding with a dedicated 10-year fund to allow for further Opportunity Areas in the North. In particular, this needs to urgently address the lack of Opportunity Areas in the North East.

  • Simplify the Northern Regional Schools Commissioners areas to establish three: North West, Yorkshire and North East and Cumbria, working within frameworks and plans set by the Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board. These would make the final decision on regional funding streams for school improvement, challenging poor performance in Multi Academy Trusts, re-allocating schools to those with capability and identifying schools that need rebuilding.

Marking the launch of the report Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, who will be leading on skills for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, 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.

“The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has already taken important steps to address the imbalance. Within my first 100 days as Metro Mayor we set up a Skills Commission, surveying 2,000 businesses about their future skill needs.

“The report’s 14 recommendations are clear and unambiguous and there is a lot for government – along with devolved administrations – to take note of. I support the broad thrust of the recommendations and take particular note of the calls for the government to further devolve adult education budgets across the North.

“Here in the Liverpool City Region, we feel the government have not held up their end of the bargain so far on this issue. I repeat my call to the government today to engage proactively with us in discussions on this important aspect of devolution.”

Collette Roche, Northern Powerhouse Board member, who led the review group, said:

“This report should act as a wake-up call to everyone involved in education and skills in realising how far the North is behind the rest of the UK and where we need to get to.

“The devastating consequences of disadvantage in the North is fully set out, as is just how far our children from all backgrounds fall behind by the age of 16. These critical issues lead to employers not having a highly-skilled workforce, which is vital for increasing productivity and growth across the North.

“This report examines a child’s journey from the nursery to the workplace, identifying all of the crucial points where intervention is needed to ensure Northern children do not fall behind.

“Our 14 specific and bold recommendations challenge the government, local authorities, businesses and others to invest in our children and young people, to ensure they have the future they deserve.”

Lord Jim O’Neill, NPP vice-chair and one of the leading figures behind the report, added:

“For the Northern Powerhouse to succeed and deliver a North that pulls its weight in economic terms the first things we have to sort out are education and skills.

“Sorting out schools in the Northern Powerhouse should be at the top of the new Education Secretary’s in-tray, and we will be working closely with government to implement our recommendations.

“We have seen how everyone involved in delivering education in London came together to turn their schools around from some of the worst in the country to some of the best. The same can happen in the North, creating an education system capable of delivering a skilled workforce in the North, for the North.”

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