Report finds a ’stark’ north-south divide attainment gap for children under five

IPPR thinktank has found that only 47 per cent of disadvantaged children in the North achieve a ‘good’ level in the early years foundation stage, compared to 59 per cent in the capital.

The research, published in The State of the North report, claims that even after deprivation is taken into account, data shows that early years attainment in the North is much worse and more unequal than elsewhere in the UK.

The report findings have risen just a short while after ministers revealed they were encouraging the country’s biggest and most successful academy sponsors to expand North in an effort to raise standards.

IPPR studied the number of factors that inhibit the creation of a strong northern economy and outlines the notion that children are being held back even before they start school.

The report states: “Problems in early years can have a strong bearing on GCSE attainment – and so, unsurprisingly, the North underperforms in this area, too.

“In terms of the overall proportion of young people who attain five or more A*-C grades at GCSE, including in English and maths, the North was among the lowest-performing of the English regions in 2013-14 – 54.9 per cent of young people attained this standard, compared to 56.8 per cent across England and 61.5 per cent in London.”

Official figures show that overall GCSE attainment in the North has dwindled further behind the national average since 2010-11.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “If the Northern Powerhouse is to drive national prosperity, these figures show the challenges it must overcome to become a reality. We will never become a powerhouse economy when our children and young people have such a poor start in life.

"It will take a generation of investment: not only in new railways and motorways, but in the ‘human capital’ of the North – in education and training, starting with the youngest.”

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