May’s Government is not as focused on Northern Powerhouse, claims Sir Nick Weller

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PIC: PA
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THERESA May’s Government is not as focused on developing the Northern Powerhouse as the previous Tory administration, according to a head teacher who led a Government-commissioned review of education in northern England.

Sir Nick Weller, the chief executive of Bradford-based Dixons Academies Trust, said a new “Northern allowance” should be created to attract teachers to the North of England in order to improve standards in schools.

He also warned that public sector workers were looking to the next few years with feelings of trepidation, which is partly due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

The Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy was produced by Sir Nick in 2016.

It makes a series of recommendations for closing the gap in attainment between the North and South, particularly in the results of disadvantaged children.

Sir Nick’s strategy recommended Government funding for a new Teach North scheme to attract and retain newly-qualified teachers in disadvantaged areas of the North.

Sir Nick told The Yorkshire Post that his report had been commissioned by George Osborne, the former Chancellor and Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary.

He said he was not going to pretend it has the same political backing that it had.

However, he said that various approaches to find ways of attracting teachers to the North will be tried, and whichever ends up working the best will probably be rolled out.

He added: “I think it’s fair to say that this administration is not as focused on the Northern Powerhouse as it was. It’s focused on opportunity areas, and areas of high deprivation, it’s less about this ‘let’s build a big city across the M62 corridor’, and more about closing the gap on deprivation, wherever it is.

“It doesn’t have that concept of the M62 corridor as the main economic driver of the North. I think that’s gone.

“It’s still championed by the editor of the London Evening Standard (who is now George Osborne).”

“I think there is real power in that idea of the M62 corridor driving economic growth across the whole region. but obviously not everybody agrees with that.”

He continued: “When I started teaching you got a social mobility allowance or you got an Inner London allowance. Now, what you need, is a Northern allowance to try and draw people up.

“It’s not just about money. People go into teaching because they are driven by a moral purpose.

“If you explain to them, where the gaps are greatest, is in Burnley or in Bradford or in Leeds, you would draw people there.

“There needs to be a real national will to do that. London is the capital and its cultural life and everything else is a big draw.

“I think it will probably take a national drive to do that. But to be honest, all everyone is thinking about is Brexit..“Anybody in public services is facing the next few years with some trepidation because whatever happens, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of money around.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every child should have a world class education regardless of where they live and we are determined to tackle inequality and areas of entrenched underperformance.

“We are investing £72m in 12 opportunity areas, seven of which are in the North and Midlands to raise standards and create better opportunities for young people.

“We are also taking forward key recommendations from Nick Weller’s Northern Powerhouse Strategy and will use the lessons learned from these programmes to create more good school places for every child.”

Sir Nick made the comments after speaking at the Mosaic Yorkshire end of year event which was held at the offices of the law firm Eversheds Sutherland in Leeds.

Mosaic creates opportunities for young people in the UK’s most deprived communities through mentoring.

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