North-South Education Divide: Impact on Children in the North

Jan 23, 2023
North-South Education Divide: Impact on Children in the North

Ever since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, we have seen a divide between the North and the South in England. 

Stereotypes surrounding the North and the South have been around for years, placing the North as being typically more ‘working class, democratic, gritty’ and the South as more ‘uptight, snobbish and lazy’

Although there are statistically more poorer areas in the North than the South, many suggest there are more “deep-seated structural issues” at the heart of the problem. 

In this article, we explore the divide further, focusing specifically the impact on children’s education in the North vs the South and why it exists in the first place. 

What is the North-South divide?

England is typically divided into two geographical areas; ‘the North’ which includes the North East, the North West, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands and the West Midlands. And ‘the South’ which includes the East of England, London, the South East and the South West. 

The exact border between the North and South is debated by many but this is the rough layout of the areas. 

map showing the general split of the north and south of England

Why does the North-South divide exist?

The divide exists today because of many reasons; social, economic, cultural and political. 

The reasons for there being a divide date back many years, but why, today, in 2022 are we still seeing the effects of this divide on children and families across England? 

The divide can be seen in transport provision, with funding for transport systems severely lacking in the North when compared with the South…

…And in healthcare, where between 2016 and 2018 it was reported that Richmond upon Thames had the highest male life expectancy at 71.9 years, and in Blackpool it was only 53.5 years.

The divide is not limited to education, although that will be our focus for this article.

The North-South divide in education

When it comes to education, the gap is only worsening and children all across the North of England are seeing the impact that this is having on their opportunities. 

Areas in the North suffer from a lot of economic issues, with families struggling more than those in the South. 

We have seen a lot of this recently in mainstream media surrounding free school meals and the percentage of people who claim these that are in low-income households. 

Graph showing low-income households and free school meals across regions in the UK
[Image source]

The implications of this divide are serious. 

Children and young people in the North are also statistically less likely to go to university due to the lack of opportunities available to them in their local school and area. 

It’s a vicious cycle where young people aren’t getting access to opportunities and therefore experience limited life chances:

  • Limited higher and further education opportunities
  • Limited work experience available
  • Unable to enter ‘better’ jobs or industries
  • Prevented from accessing higher-paid roles
  • Role progression is limited
  • Salaries are somewhat capped
  • People are stuck in their working-class background

What does the North-South divide mean for children’s education in the North?

The impact that the North-South divide has on children’s education cannot be underestimated.  

Statistics show that children in London and the South East are 57% more likely to go to university than students in the North. This is a shockingly high number and it has a profound impact on the opportunities for young people in northern England. 

We have seen statistics like these for years now, but recently they have been exacerbated with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. With many children missing school and missing study time, it was seen in the latest GCSE results: 

Graph showing the percentage of A level grades at A and A* in different regions across the UK
[Image source

Although in this graph we can see that results are generally higher in 2022 than they were in 2019, we see that the number of students receiving A grades is much higher in London and the South East than in the North. 

Since the release of these results in August 2022, many people have been taking action to try and establish what we can do to stop this. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, known for its work for fighting for opportunity and growth in the North, wrote to members of the UK parliament calling for action. The partnership has voiced its concerns on the strong impact that this divide is having on the economy. 

Results from 2022 also showed that the A-level gap has widened from 5.3% to 8.7% and the North East of England had the lowest percentage of students receiving A and A* grades, with only 30.8% achieving said grades. In the South East, 39.5% of students received the same results!

This is why so many are asking what is going wrong. Children and young people in the North are equally as bright and ambitious, so why are their grades not reflecting this?

Young adults and parents are dealing with fewer opportunities, less investment, limited access to higher education and lower acceptance rates, and so are evidently finding it difficult to be optimistic about their child’s future.

What role does funding play in the North-South education divide?

Funding is vital to the UK education system and when it comes to equal education access, this has never been more prevalent than when we look at the North-South education divide. 

We have seen that funding is desperately needed in the North, to ensure that children are gaining access to all of the educational opportunities that they can. 

However, why hasn’t there been any investment? 

In 2021, when the Goverment committed to increasing funding in schools, it resulted in this funding shifting from more disadvantaged areas to better off schools in London. 

And this doesn’t appear to be a recent problem. An article by the BBC reported that almost one in five parents were asked to set up payments to their children’s schools. Many schools even back in 2017 were suffering from cash shortages.

In a 2021 report on the state of funding in England’s schools, it was found that Coronavirus did impact the funding distribution, with money going towards the costs of maintaining safety controls. However, schools have reported that even in pre-pandemic days they have been making cuts to staffing roles and combining certain roles to try and manage costs. 

It appears that just from looking at a surface level, the problem is rooted in Government choices to distribute funding and it seems to be a work in progress trying to ensure this distribution is done equally around the schools in England. 

image showing the funding available per student between the north and south - £900 less for children in the north compared to London
[Image source]. This shows us how the amount of funding varies all over the country when compared to London.

Funding and investment is everything in education. Here are just some of the ways funds can be used:

  • Being able to afford to pay more teacher’s salaries means there is more time for individual tutoring and time to explain concepts and theories to students.
  • Having access to newer textbooks and workbooks means that students will have more up to date knowledge and be more engaged to make use of these resources.
  • Access to technology and the latest advancements such as computers and electronic devices means students will be more technologically literate and able to navigate jobs in an increasingly technology dependent society.
  • Providing healthy, nutritious food in the school canteen also comes at a cost and the more funding there is, the better the options are for children. We perform better academically overall when we follow a balanced diet.  

Investment in England’s schools is vital and more must be done to increase accessibility to funding for schools across the country.

student sitting a test

What can we do to help combat the North-South education divide?

After reading some of these statistics, you might be feeling a bit lost and wondering what to do to help reduce this inequality in education in England. 

Here at Learning Cubs, we are trying to tackle the problem and reduce this gap in our education system. We are here to help young people in Bolton, Blackburn, Keighley, Nelson and Bury to increase their grades and results at school. 

We provide group academic support in a safe, inclusive environment for children and young people, supporting English, Maths and Science and helping children achieve the grades they need to get that place at university or higher-paid job. 

By working in a smaller environment, there is more opportunity for our tutors to spot mistakes and correct errors, or work on a particular study technique with that child. These are services that may not always be available in schools.

Learning Cubs tutor working with a student offering one-to-one support

We offer help with funding too, meaning no parent is left behind when it comes to providing their child with the high quality education they deserve. Visit our website for more information about the funding options available to you. 

Our centres were created to help fight this gap in education and to ensure that children in the North receive just as many opportunities to get into further education as any other children do. 

Get your children involved with Learning Cubs today!

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