MP calls for ‘sharper focus’ on Hartlepool schools over north/south divide

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has called for more Government funding for town schools after a damning report highlighted a north/south divide in education.

Children in the London borough of Hackney are three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool, a study has concluded.

A child on free school meals living in Hackney is three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool, the report found. Pic by PA.

A child on free school meals living in Hackney is three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool, the report found. Pic by PA.

The report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, says pupils in the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber are less likely to do well in secondary school, more likely to go to a poor school and more likely to leave education early.

It found that a child on free school meals living in Hackney, London, is three times more likely to go to university than a similar child in Hartlepool, while London children on free school meals were 40% more likely to achieve a good maths and English GCSE grade than children in the North.

More than half of the schools serving the North’s most deprived communities were below a “good” rating, the report added, as they endured the problems of weak leadership, poor governance and difficulties recruiting staff.

In response Hartlepool’s MP has said the Government needs to have a “sharper focus” on schools to tackle the north-south divide.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill called on the Government to put more investment into schools in Hartlepool.

He said: “Although this hard hitting report is about making comparisons between children in the north and the south in general, the fact that the commissioner specifically cites Hartlepool speaks volumes.

“Only last week I visited English Martyrs where headteacher Stephen Hammond pressed home the fact that chronic underfunding of our schools was biting hard and urgent investment was needed to ensure the future viability of the learning environment, jobs and the delivery of some GCSE subjects.

“Hartlepool has some of the most deprived wards in the country and there are many low income households where the only prospect of a decent future for children comes from a good education and investment in their future.

“Our schools certainly try their very best to deliver on that, the council is doing what it can in the face of diminishing funds and increased demands on children’s services budgets and a number of initiatives across the town aim to support families and children in education.

“As the commissioner highlights our students and communities do need to see improved investment and opportunities. “

Mr Hill added: “Hartlepool kids are rightly proud of where they come from and quite rightly deserve a future where there are local education and job opportunities for them.

“We need to see a sharper focus from the Government on our schools, on our economy and our people in order to reverse this trend and tackle the unfair north-south divide.”

The commissioner has called on the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project to give youngsters the same attention as economic regeneration, otherwise she warned its promise would not be fulfilled.

Mrs Longfield said: “Children growing up in the North love and are proud of the place they live.

“They want a future where they live near their family and community and they want jobs and opportunities to rival anywhere else in the country.

“The Northern Powerhouse and the new devolved mayors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive that ambition.

“While many children in the North are thriving, there are huge gaps between the poorest Northern kids and those in the South.

“Too many children in the North are facing the double whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools.

“They are being left behind.

“We need to ask why a child from a low income family in London is three times more likely to go to university than a child who grows up in Hartlepool.

“The Northern Powerhouse will only succeed if children are put at the heart of the project.”