Every month Jo Cox writes a column for the Batley News and Spenborough Guardian. This month’s column appears in this week’s editions.
I never cease to be impressed at our local schools. I have had the honour to visit many over the last year as part of my plan to visit – and revisit – every one. As well as some inspiring pupils, I have also met tremendous teachers, truly visionary headteachers and deeply committed governors.
We have many schools doing incredible things.
But research by the Social Market Foundation paints a very stark picture across our region.
They found marked disparities in GCSE performance between regions, with over 70% of pupils in London achieving 5 good GCSEs compared to just 63% in Yorkshire and the Humber.
These regional differences are already apparent by the end of primary school – and they are evident even after account is taken of other factors such as ethnicity and income.
Tragically for our children the region has gone from the fifth lowest achieving in the 1970s to the worst in England today. Nearly a quarter of pupils are attending schools that are rated less than good.
In Yorkshire and the Humber children are being left behind.
Here in Kirklees, we out perform the regional average at secondary level but match it at primary level. There is no doubt that there is a postcode lottery in education – and this is a disgrace.
After 30 years of neglect and a lack of focus from Government – we now live in a society in which a child born here has less chance of reaching their potential than one born in London.
I led a debate in Parliament on this issue. Beforehand I met with a group local headteachers to discuss what works and what doesn’t and what they need from the Government.
As one of them said to me: “It is time to stop beating teachers and start giving us the support we need to do our job.”
They are scathing about forcing schools to become academies, something even Tory MPs are threatening to rebel in Parliament over.
The reality of academies is they are neither inherently good nor bad and they should not be bluntly imposed on all schools. Instead of fixating on school governance the Government needs to ensure that schools have the tools they need to do their job. This means focusing instead on issues like teaching standards and recruitment.
This growing divide in regional academic attainment can no longer be left unchallenged. Nothing politicians do matters more than ensuring that no child is left behind.
If “education, education, education” is a priority then the answer must, in part, be teachers, teachers, teachers.
And what has worked in London, the investment and improvement brought about by Labour’s London Challenge, can work elsewhere. It can work in Yorkshire but it will need real investment and sustained political commitment. It is time for a new, bold and ambitious target to end the postcode lottery in educational attainment.
We have a duty to make sure every child has access to the best possible education. It should not matter where you are born. No child should be left behind.