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George Osborne: Northern economy hamstrung by decades of Westminster neglect of its schools

Economic growth, productivity and prosperity are weaker in the north of England in part because Governments in Westminster have failed to focus on their schools, George Osborne has warned.
Bad schools in London are easy for politicians to visit and focus on, while those hundreds of miles away have been neglected by comparison.
But a concerted effort could have a transformative effect on the region and on the entire British economy, said the bosses of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
“The simple fact is educational performance in the North of England is not as strong as it should be, and it lags behind educational performance elsewhere in the country, particularly in the capital,” the former Chancellor told the Education Select Committee.
“It is partly lack of attention over many decades.
George Osborne: Northern economy hamstrung by decades of Westminster neglect of its schools

George Osborne told MPs that it is easy for politicians to focus energy and resources on Hackney as it is near Westminster - but the north of England has no such advantages

Credit:
Parliament TV
“Over my lifetime there has been a dramatic improvement in the state of London’s schools. They have gone from some of the most challenged, in some of the most challenging areas, with big diversity and a lot of disadvantage, but they have managed to take good schools and make them excellent.”
In part this is due to the ease of focusing national attention on different aspects of the capital, while areas distant from Westminster are more often forgotten.
“If there were problems in Hackney, which is an outstanding example of where schools were improved over 20 years, the truth is, people who were in charge knew officials at Department for Education, politicians in Government often knew the head teachers,” Mr Osborne said.
“It is 30 mins from here [Westminster] - you could direct that central, national effort at an area not very far from the Palace of Westminster. It is more challenging in the north of England.”
But he hopes that a focus on the region with a new umbrella body co-ordinating education and skills resources and planning should help replicate London’s success.
At a glance | Northern Powerhouse
“It will help address the long-term problem which is the economic performance of North of England has lagged behind that of the south,” he said.
“Every reputable study that you can find around the world suggests the best way to improve productivity is to improve education outcomes.”
Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, said a focus on schools across the region, rather than in a piecemeal fashion, should provide a major boost to the economy.
“If you get them [northern cities] working as a single market, it will transform the national economy's performance,” he told MPs.
He added that it was not just the Government that needed to do more to improve education to boost the economy.
“Look at us compared to Germany. Twenty per cent of their broader education spending comes from companies, because they know it is in their interests to have the skills to keep them going,” Lord O’Neill said.
“It is such a dominant theme in the north about this ‘skills shortage’, yet so many employers just expect somebody else to do it for them.
“We need a transformation as to how the corporate sector plays its role in this.”
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