Wilshaw supports Yorkshire First proposals for schools

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michael wilshawToday the OfSTED annual report comes out and the big piece of news coming from it has been widely trailed in today’s newspapers and news programmes – there is a North South divide in education. (A phrase involving bears in a forest comes to mind) Children in the north are significantly less likely to attend a school rated good or better by OfSTED than in the south.


Sir Michael Wilshaw has said three interesting things as part of this..

1. There are 16 local authorities where under 60% of children attend a school rated as below good and many of these are in the satellite towns of Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds
2. In an interview he has commented that “if the Northern Powerhouse is to mean anything we need to improve education North of the Wash”
3. The difference at secondary level performance cannot be explained by issues of relative wealth or poverty, and Mr Wilshaw will call for a London Challenge-style campaign in weaker areas, with collective action by local politicians, MPs, chief executives and headteachers to raise school standards.

I think Mr Wilshaw has been reading the Yorkshire First election manifesto from 2015!
If imitation is the best form of flattery, Michael Wilshaw is being incredibly flattering about what Yorkshire First have been saying for over a year.

The devo-joke deals currently being pushed through are all centered on the big cities. We currently have a London-centric society where money, skill, enterprise is sucked into the capital. This won’t change as a result of the devo-joke deals. What will happen is we will create mini-suctions for money, skill and enterprise in our big Northern cities leaving the satellite towns – the ones MOST in need of support and regeneration even worse off. Barnsley will be the worse for the Sheffield City Region not the better and their schools will decline further.

Michael Wilshaw hits the nail on the head when he says that if the Northern Powerhouse is to mean anything it needs to transform education in the north. The big problem is that our municipal leaders are so short sighted and so scared of missing crumbs from Osbornes table that they aren’t bothered about education and hence education plays absolutely zero part in any of the devo-joke deals. A fact we’ve been shouting about since these deals were mooted.

A London-style challenge for poorly performing areas? Oh God YES PLEASE! This particular drum we’ve been banging for over a year. The Yorkshire Post have come on board with this idea as well as a number of Yorkshire MPs. I’m not fussy about Yorkshire First claiming credit for the idea and the germination of a plan for this provided it happens and it happens properly. This is THE most important thing that can happen that could transform our Northern satellite towns and social mobility in the North. A word of warning though. The London Challenge worked because it was large scale and covered ALL the boroughs of London. If we centre a challenge approach only on say Barnsley or Bradford, the scope for success is vastly reduced because the scope for collaboration and support is minimised.. We need the challenge to work across the WHOLE of Yorkshire where schools from Barnsley can collaborate with schools from Scarborough or York or Beverley.

I applaud Michael Wilshaw for making public something that we’ve known about for a long time. My question now is where do we go from here? The government will have to react and my worry is that all they will do is use it as a lever to further embed their acadamisation agenda. Academies are not the silver bullet – it is just eventual privatisation of educational provision by the back door. However collaboration with mutual and critical support, the key principles of a regional challenge approach – an approach that has been proven to work in our capital city, could be.

As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Are our leaders insane? Prove that you aren’t.

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Wayne Chadburn

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