The North-South divide never seems to go away. Like Arsenal / Tottenham or Celtic / Rangers it’s a rivalry that can still draw heated emotions. Unlike football rivalries, however, the North-South divide has a genuine impact on millions of lives, and those in the North do have very real reasons to feel a little bit annoyed with their neighbours in the South. Latest proof? Education.
Ofsted started ringing alarm bells in late 2015, with chief of the organisation Sir Michael Wilshaw warning that a third of schools in the North and Midlands are not performing well enough. Sixteen weak local authorities were named, where under 60% of students attend good or outstanding schools and have below average “attainment and progress” at GCSE level, and only three of these local authorities were in the South.
In January 2016 it was announced that Nick Clegg was returning from wherever he had been hiding since May 2015 to lead a new commission on the North-South divide in education: why, the commission sought to answer, do 70% of London GCSE students achieve five good GCSEs when only 63% of their contemporaries in Yorkshire and Humber do?
Now Sir Michael Wilshaw has intervened again, warning that the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – a government proposal to boost economic growth in the North – will “splutter and die” if schools in the North don’t improve. To give another alarming figure: four in ten schools in Liverpool are rated as less than good.
So how did this happen?
Answering this question would require far more than a blogpost – just look at the way politicians are struggling to come up with any answers – but one of many factors that may be leading to this inequality is of particular interest to us: teacher shortages. There’s a teacher shortage everywhere, but it may the case that the South – and London in particular – is taking up more than its fair share of young, dynamic teachers – the very people we need spread out across the educational system.
Technology may be able to offer a very limited fix to this issue: the development of something like ‘Share’, for example, means that good teachers across the country – beyond the North/South divide – can create high quality activities to be shared to all schools in the SAM community, regardless of location, allowing us to share expertise from Peckham in classrooms in Peterborough, and giving access to activities made in Macclesfield to students in Marlow.
Interested in Share? Find out more.