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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

North-South divide hits young children as early as five – IPPR North report

Less than half of children born into the poorest families in the North reach a good standard of development by the time they are five years’ old, according to a new report.

The poorest children born in the North are also falling behind their peers born into poverty in London, in a stark ‘early years gap’. Just 47 per cent of the poorest children in the North achieve a good level of development in their early years – their peers in London enjoy a 12 percentage point head start, where 59 per cent meet the standard.

In its annual State of the North report, IPPR North looked at what is required to create a successful northern economy. It found the potential of its people is being held back at all stages of their lives, starting before they even reach school.

Closing the gap in early years achievement is one of 11 benchmarks against which progress of the Northern Powerhouse should be assessed to benefit people living and working in the North.

The report also found:

• 55 per cent of young people in the North attain the standard of 5 GCSEs A*- C, including English and Maths– but this fell to only a third (33 per cent) for those receiving free school meals.
• The North’s productivity trails the national average by 10.6 per cent. The report says the North needs to halve the productivity gap between itself and the UK as a whole, rising by £8.50 per hour from £26.73 to £35.20 over the long term.

• While the cities dominate the North’s economy, there are pockets of highly qualified workers and high productivity in more rural areas too. The most productive area is Cheshire and Warrington (£30.20 per hour). Employment rates are also high in areas such as York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (77.2 per cent), Cumbria (76.3 per cent) and Cheshire and Warrington (75.0 per cent), which surpass the national (72.9 per cent) and northern rates (70.5 per cent).

• The North has a lower proportion of well-qualified workers, but when combined the five northern city-regions have almost as many well-qualified individuals (3.6 million) as London does (3.7 million). The demand for skilled workers in the North is forecast to increase, with three quarters of new jobs available - equivalent to 2.4m people - by 2022 requiring QCF level 3 or above.

Ed Cox, director at IPPR North, said:

“If the Northern Powerhouse is to drive national prosperity, these figures show the challenges it must overcome to become a reality. We will never become a powerhouse economy when our children and young people have such a poor start in life. It will take a generation of investment: not only in new railways and motorways, but in the ‘human capital’ of the North – in education and training, starting with the youngest.

“If the Northern Powerhouse is to be successful, economic powers must be devolved to all corners of the North to allow businesses and policymakers to develop an economy that supports more productive, resilient and sustainable growth: jobs that pay well, prosperity that is shared, and opportunities for all.”


Danny Wright – [email protected] 07887 422789

Sofie Jenkinson - [email protected] 07981 023031

Lester Holloway - [email protected] 07585 722633

Notes to Editors

The State of the North 2015: Four tests for the Northern Powerhouse is available under embargo by contacting the IPPR North press office. You can read it here.

The report will be launched at Sheffield Town Hall, with speeches from Lord Prescott, Dan Jarvis MP and leading figures in the north. Full programme here.

The benchmarks for the Northern Powerhouse, answering ‘How will we know whether the ‘northern powerhouse’ is working?’, are:

Test 1 – Prosperity for all

1. We have increased labour productivity by £8.50 per hour, thereby halving the North’s productivity gap relative to the UK average.

2. We have created 600,000 new, good-quality jobs, which would represent a halving of the gap between the North’s current employment rate and our proposed national ‘full employment’ rate.

3. We have reduced the proportion of people on low pay to the national average, if not below it.

Test 2 – From early years to higher skills

4. We have caught up with the national rate of early years attainment for under-5s, having focused on the needs of the most deprived children.

5. We have closed the gap in GCSE attainment, in terms of the number of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs including English and maths, having again focused on deprived young people.

6. We have met the projected demand from employers for skilled workers qualified to NVQ level 3 and above. Projections indicate that there will be demand for more than 2.4 million people qualified to NVQ level 3 or higher by 2022.

Test 3 – Investing in the future

7. We see levels of investment in research and development in the North matching those of the very best regions in Europe.

8. We see the volume of commuter travel between the major cities of the North of England reach the levels we would expect to see in similar metro-regions in Europe.

Test 4 – Tackling the democratic deficit

9. The proportion of people who feel that the balance of power between central and local government is ‘about right’ increases to at least the national average in every northern region.

10. Levels of public influence and efficacy in the northern regions – especially at the local level – rise above the national average, such that more than one-third of people feel that they have a real say over what their local authority does.

11. At least half of the electorate exercise their right to vote in mayoral elections in northern cities.