Education & Family

Parents in north of England should be more pushy, says children's tsar

Parent taking child to school Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Parents in the north of England need to be more ambitious for their children, says the country's Children's Commissioner

Parents in the north of England should learn from their pushier counterparts in the south to help their children get top grades, says the children's tsar.

The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, herself a Leeds-based mother, said parents in the south spur on their children.

The Commissioner's Growing up North research on children's prospects in the north will be launched on Tuesday.

A north-south attainment gap opens up in secondary school, says the study.

'Tiger parents'

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Some of the findings were positive for northern children - with better well-being at age 11 - and in some areas, for example the north-east, children doing very well, with 56% reaching the expected standard at 11, only slightly behind inner London on 57%, say the researchers.

However, the study found that by the time they become adults, a gap in attainment and outcomes emerges between children in London and the south-east and their counterparts in English counties north of an imaginary line drawn between the mouth of the river Mersey and the Wash.

Overall, the research finds little difference between the academic achievements of primary school children on either side of the divide - but this does not continue into secondary school, with a pronounced gap by 16.

Speaking to The Times newspaper ahead of the launch, Ms Longfield said: "As northern parents, we need to be aware of these inconsistencies and variations in secondary schools and push hard for our schools to show how they are improving and helping our children to achieve.

"One of the real drivers of improvements of schools in London has been the demand for good school results from parents and children. There is much we northern parents can learn about this parent power."

Ms Longfield told the newspaper that although the "tiger" parents of London and the south-east had been mocked for their emphasis on extra homework and music lessons, there was something to be learned from the way they demanded more from teachers and schools for their children.

Highlights of the research include:

  • School leavers from London and the south-east are more likely to go to competitive universities than those in the north
  • Disadvantaged pupils in London are more likely to get five good GCSEs than their counterparts in the north
  • Of the 10 English cities with the lowest employment rates - eight are in the north

The research heralds a Growing Up North project which will investigate why some children in the north fall behind.

At the launch of the project, the Commissioner is expected to call for the regeneration under way in the north of England to focus on reshaping the prospects of all children in the region to put them on a par with those in the south.

A north-south divide, particularly in secondary schools, was highlighted by Ofsted in its annual report on Thursday last week.

In the report, England's chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said poorly performing schools in the north and the East Midlands continued to fuel the sense of a divided nation.

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