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Regional Differences – How Can We Overcome The North/South Schools Divide?

  • Regional Differences – How Can We Overcome The North/South Schools Divide?

If we want to close the regional attainment gap, suggests Leon Hady, we could start by looking at what’s worked before…

The north/south divide in attainment levels in secondary schools is a key focus once again after Ofsted’s latest annual report [PDF].

While the statistics seem to support the idea that the north is falling behind the south in terms of educating students up to five grade A-C standard, there are many methods we can employ to turn these figures around.

Focus and diligence

At the turn of the century, London – now the second best performing area in the country with 71% of students achieving five A-C grade – was down at 16%.

Focus and diligence helped improve London dramatically. The rest of the country, including other areas in the south that are also under-performing, will benefit from the lessons learnt from initiatives such as the London Challenge [PDF].

There are three key areas to consider when making the improvements required to bring schools up to a good standard:

1 Teacher recruitment
Teacher recruitment must come from a wider pool and be easier for passionate people to access. Paying a £9000 tuition fee for a PGCE qualification will be a block to many, but paid teaching assistant positions, followed by qualifications such as after-work HCUK PGCE qualifications, may allow for more people to overcome the initial cost of preparing for the profession.

Participants following this route can gain experience and academic theory, while at the same time being employed and able to earn a living.

2 Starting year for GCSEs
Another area of focus could be the starting year for GCSEs. Some schools have had success bringing GCSE work into Year 9, inviting learners to focus on more complex topics earlier in their school career. This could better prepare students for the complex work they will need to complete throughout their schooling.

3 Academic progression outside of school
A different approach would be to enable further responsibility for academic progression outside of the school building and school hours. Resources are now available that can shared with both students and parents and students, enabling revision materials to be presented in an accessible format with which students are familiar.

Tools such as TuitionKit allow students to sign up to hundreds of tutorial and revision materials to help prepare them for their exams, which are available 24 hours a day.

This is key, since some students need to focus on certain items in preparation for key exams. Video tutorials delivered in bite-sized chunks allow them to do just that, without parents having to cover the extortionate costs of tutors who can charge as much as £60 or £70 an hour.

Taking responsibility for learning
Services such as the Khan Academy and Duolingo have transformed the way people approach learning core maths skills and languages, by allowing them access to teachers whenever they want on computers, phones and tablets at any time of day or night.

GCSE- and A-level-focused equivalents such as TuitionKit can offer all students in the UK free tutorials covering everything they need to achieve a C in English Language, English Literature, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

Encouraging students to take responsibility for their learning via the use of such resources, and removing barriers to parental involvement (such as lack of access to resources, textbooks and tutors) will allow schools to concentrate on the areas of their students’ learning that require particular attention.

There are, of course, many other issues involved. But inviting more passionate people into teaching, creating a culture that encourages students to learn from home and bringing forward the teaching of key skills will really help students across the country – not just the north – to increase their attainment in a wide variety of subjects.

Leon Hady is the headteacher of The Stone Soup Academy, an alternative provision free school in Nottingham

For more information about TuitionKit, visit tuitionkit.com or follow @TuitionKit

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