According to the head of UK educational watchdog organization Ofsted, politicians in Manchester and Liverpool must take responsibility for falling standards and improve the area’s schools.
Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw stated that the areas of Rochdale, Salford, Oldham, and Knowsley must improve secondary education or risk their future success due to an unqualified workforce.
Wilshaw made these statements in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), reports BBC News.
He cited some alarming numbers in his statement: Ofsted numbers show that out of the 16 local authorities with the most poorly performing secondary schools, 13 of them are above a geographic line drawn between the Bristol Channel and the Wash. Most of these are Labour-held areas.
Three in ten secondary schools in Manchester and Rochdale and four out of ten in Liverpool are inadequate or need improvement, according to Lynn Davidson of the Sun. In Oldham, the number is as high as six in ten. Josie Gurney-Read of the Telegraph reports that in inner London, the number is only one in ten. In Knowsley, not even one school is rated good or better.
The Social Market Foundation has also found that this North-South divide is widening, leaving southern students with more opportunities and northern students lacking in funding and school quality.
Wilshaw also discussed the causes of the problem and dismissed claims that poverty was at the root of the problem and that the large number of children of immigrants in London are more motivated to succeed. He suggested instead that it was a problem that local politicians could solve.
According to Peter Henn of the Express, he also reminded listeners that the area has potential and has a history of both hard work and academic rigor: Manchester and Liverpool have two universities that rank in the top 200 universities in the world.
Wilshaw made this speech on the same day that Ofsted published a letter calling for improvements in education across the Greater Manchester area. The letter opines that these students are not being properly prepared for university, the workforce, or other training.
In response to Wilshaw’s comments, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said:
The Tories’ new school funding formula could also hit areas like Liverpool and Manchester hard. Labour supports fairer funding but these areas are likely to take a big hit. There should be mitigation in the system to protect school standards and ensure a loss of funding doesn’t hamstring local areas.
If the Northern Powerhouse strategy is to mean anything it must allow local communities the ability to tackle the root causes of low attainment, and not to further centralize schools policy.
However, others feel that these statements are unfair to schools and parents and do not take into account the differences in available funding in each area. They are asking for a national funding formula that would give to each student according to need.
Wilshaw is due to step down from his post as chief inspector in December.