RECRUITING and retaining quality teachers into disadvantaged areas by highlighting the challenges they would face was a way to address the North-South divide in education standards, the author of the Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy told an education forum on Wednesday evening.
Around 150 guests from the education, social enterprise, voluntary and local authority sectors, along with a number of primary and secondary school parents and teachers, attended.
The report, written by Sir Nick Weller, chief executive of Bradford-based Dixons Academies Trust, and published in November outlined the large gap in educations standards in the North and said Bradford could help lead the way to see improvements made.
Sir Nick outlined reasons for the north's underperformance in some schools stating the difference in education development of children with disadvantaged backgrounds by the time a child finishes reception is almost twice as large in the North as it is in London.
"The focus needs to be on closing the disadvantage gap. The more disadvantaged the kids are, the worse they will do in school."
He also said it was imperative schools recruited and attained quality teachers ensuring they were "up to the challenge" and outline what they would be facing.
"The district is being sold as too flowery; all Bronte's and sheep in pretty fields. Sell the challenge and the right people will embrace it," he added.
He said the Department for Education should do its bit by piloting a new Teach North scheme to attract and retain talented newly-qualified teachers to disadvantaged schools in the north and proposed funding be allocated to support these initiatives.
"Teaching is a tough job these days; much tougher than when I was doing it in the '80s and '90s. Standards and expectations are also higher and even with the best will in the world, not everyone who wants to be a teacher is going to make it," he said.
He also looked at what he sees has gone wrong with academisation.
"So academisation in the north particular has been seen as a grant maintained plus arrangement, in other words it's about independence from the local authority," he said. "It has not been understood enough that it is about building an effective family of schools that will support and improve one another."
Sir Nick added he was surprised that in Bradford, with high levels of deprivation, the city only had half the national average of special school places. You would expect us to be above the national average.
"It is probably to the detriment of some special educational needs children who end up in some mainstream schools who are not equipped to deal with their needs."
His report focussed on five main issues: Building teaching and leadership capacity; school improvement capacity; raising standards by closing the disadvantaged gap, curriculum revision and system conditions.
Other speakers included Judith Kirk, Bradford Council’s deputy director for education, employment and skills and Michael Jameson, strategic director of children's services.
Ms Kirk said: "All of this is part of a very big package but there is more work to be done. We have seen that come through from the report that Sir Nick has done and it really emphases the importance of getting this absolutely right across the district. We have to galvanise our efforts and thinking through innovative ways in which these can further be enhanced to support what's being said in the Northern Powerhouse report but mostly get a very high quality and retention of teachers. This is an effort that is being put through right across the district. The importance here is to really see that this is a joint effort in really pushing this agenda forward."