Northern Powerhouse needs "urgent action" on education, says Osborne think tank

Pic: Patrick Ferguson

URGENT action is needed to close the gap between educational performance in the North and the rest of the UK to give employers the skills they need to compete, according to the first report from George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse Partnership.  

The study argues that the Northern economy has the potential to benefit from an extra £100bn in gross value added over the next 30 years, which could deliver 850,000.

However, it warns that without action to address education and skills, infrastructure, international competitiveness and local leadership, the region will fall further behind and the UK economy will become even more unbalanced.

Osborne said there is "overwhelming evidence" that attainment at 16 is too low in the North, while around 30,000 graduates across the region leave the city in which they have studied at the end of their course.

The report says attainment at 16 in English and Maths in North must be brought up to at least the national average and for the region to become a "leading European region" in digital skills at this age.

In addition, it calls for the gap with the rest of the UK in the percentage of Good and Outstanding secondary schools to be closed and for co-investment with employers to close skills gaps.

The North should also become a net importer of graduate, particularly in the areas of science and technology, the report adds.

Furthermore, the report calls for the North to be "at the forefront of devolution", with new powers for elected mayors and more progress on moving the UK away from being the "most centrally run economy in the OECD".

Other recommendations include speeding up city-to-city and city-to-airport road and rail journeys across the Northern Powerhouse, boosting rates of business start-ups and better promoting the North around the world as an attractive place to invest.

"Many issues have been raised with us - from transport connections to devolution. But one challenge stood out: education. Our education system, right the way from the start of school to higher education, must provide the next generation with the skills, inspiration and training to fulfil their goals and build our economy," Osborne said.

"I will be asking a group of leading employers and education leaders to work together with the partnership to draw on the latest evidence and thinking to examine a number of key issues to put this right.

"As the Government takes forward its Industrial Strategy, which commits significant funding to regions across the North, we need to play our full part, with the infrastructure, skills and leadership to compete fully."