The “north-south divide” is often a phrase more commonly used to describe the cultural and economic divide between the south and the north of the United Kingdom.

However, in recent times education is becoming more prominent in the north-south divide argument, with the gap between education in the North and South “widening”.

Following Ofsted’s 2016 Annual Report the always speculated north-south divide in education was made arguably clearer than ever.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “Last year, I highlighted the disproportionate number of schools that are less than good in the North and Midlands, compared with the South and East of England. This year, that gap has widened slightly.

“More than a quarter of secondaries in the North and the Midlands are still not good enough.

“The geographical divides within the country are most acute for children on free school meals, the most able pupils and those who have special educational needs.

“There is also considerable evidence that it is schools in isolated and deprived areas where educational standards are low that are losing out in the recruitment stakes for both leaders and teachers.”

High quality head teachers are playing a big role in the quality of secondary education for pupils in the North and Midlands.

north-south divide in secondary education

With the number of secondary heads not judged as above inadequate, the schools consequently are going to suffer.

Three quarters of secondary schools judged inadequate for leadership were in the North and Midlands.

Schools such as Saint Paul’s Catholic High School, Wythenshawe were judged as “requiring improvement” when it came to the effectiveness of leadership and management.

The report for Saint Paul’s Catholic High School said that the “school leaders and governors had not tackled long-standing weaknesses in provision strongly or rapidly enough”.

Thirteen local authorities across the UK had every secondary school rated either good or outstanding following an inspection by Ofsted – all of them are in London or the South East of England.

This can be compared to the 2016 Official Ofsted Report claiming secondary schools in the North and the Midlands still “behind the rest of the country”.

The North West has been described as being of “particular concern”, with the percentage of secondary schools that were rated good or outstanding having only increased by 3 per cent in the past five years.

Andrew Cook, Ofsted Regional Director for the North West said:

“In secondary education, the gap between the North and South remains.

“Improving secondary performance will require a solution to problems with teacher supply in the region.”

However, teacher supply in the region is not the only issue facing schools in the North West.

In St Monica’s RC High School their sixth form centre is under threat due to a low number of pupils applying for the sixth form.

north-south divide in secondary education


Having only opened in 2011 the sixth form centre now only has 27 students studying at it.

The school is facing closure after the lack of support due to the small number of students going there.

Chair of Governers Paul Singleton said: “We are concerned that, as the numbers required cannot be attracted on a consistent basis, the sixth form provision is not financially sustainable.

“Without being able to be self-financing, we regret that we cannot continue to operate in this sector.”

Despite the Ofsted report showing that the North West is falling behind in education, improvements have still been made and evidence does show this.

The Radclyffe School, Oldham is an example of the improvements that schools in the North West are making.

The report for the 2015 inspection explained: “since the last inspection, rates of progress have improved rapidly.

“The tangible culture of self-improvement, instilled by the inspirational headteacher, motivates both staff and students to achieve their very best.”

Other schools and colleges in the area have also made the same improvements, with Wright Robinson College, Gorton also making the same improvement towards the standard of education in the North West.

As of August 2014 11 per cent of secondary schools in the North West were inadequate, in just two years this number has now dropped to five per cent.

If the same improvement was seen in the growth of those schools rated outstanding, only growing by one per cent in the same time frame, the north-south divide could be gradually eradicated.


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