Measure schools by ‘success’ of pupils at 25, says George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Schools should be measured on the “employability and success” of their pupils when they reach the age of 25, according to the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

The organisation, set up and chaired by the former chancellor George Osborne, has released a report, ‘Educating the North’, in which it calls for schools, colleges and universities to be measured on the “employability and eventual success” of their pupils in their 20s, compared to their previous attainment.

It is claimed the approach would “shift the focus to long-term achievement rather than short-term measures of success”.

The government already collects “destination data” on what happens to pupils after they leave school, but does not continue to track them into their mid-20s.

In his introduction to the report, Osborne described education as “perhaps the greatest challenge” faced in the north, and wants the region to emulate the success of the London Challenge in improving educational outcomes in deprived communities.

Alongside its demand for new accountability measures for schools, the report suggests reforms to pupil premium funding so it can “better target funding for disadvantage” by allocating more to pupils eligible for free school meals “throughout their schooling”, and the establishment of a Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board.

This would “draw together existing funding with a dedicated 10-year fund to allow for further “opportunity areas”. There is no opportunity area in the north-east at present, a fact the report says should be “urgently addressed”.

Areas covered by the government’s regional schools commissioners should also be shaken up, the report said, with three new areas created to cover the north-west, Yorkshire, and the north-east and Cumbria.

Currently, the region is split differently between three existing areas: the north of England, Lancashire and west Yorkshire, and the east midlands and the Humber. Under the current system, Yorkshire is split across two regions, and there is confusion around one of the areas being called “the north” when it only covers part of the north of the country.

The commissioners for the new regions would work “within frameworks and plans set by the Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board” and alongside their work to challenge poor performance in multi-academy trusts, would get powers to make decisions on “regional funding streams” for school improvement.

Collette Roche, the chief of staff at Manchester Airports, who leads the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s education and skills board, said the report “should act as a wake-up call to everyone involved in education and skills in realising how far the north is behind the rest of the UK and where we need to get to”.

The full recommendations for schools

  • Measure all schools on the “employability and success” of their pupils at 25
  • Reform pupil premium funding to “better target funding for disadvantage”, allocating more for pupils eligible for free school meals
  • Establish a Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board and create more opportunity areas, especially in the north-east
  • Simplify the RSC regions to create three new areas: north-west, Yorkshire, and north-east and Cumbria
  • Make every northern business “mentor or reach out” to 900,000 young people
  • Establish government-supported “locally-led clusters for school improvement”, to share services more effectively
  • Form a Northern “centre of excellence” that provides research and evidence on how to turn around failing schools, funded by the £42 million teacher development premium
  • Offer “bespoke” careers guidance and workplace-based learning to pupils eligible for the pupil premium
  • Increase early years funding for disadvantaged areas across the north by £300 million to make pupils “study ready” by age 5

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  1. Moves to track young people post 18 should be resisted. First it smacks of obtrusive surveillance. Second, it would make schools responsible for factors outside their control. Employment prospects, personal decisions and personal circumstances all impact on what a young person is doing when they are 25. Schools have no bearing on these.

  2. Teachers come into education to make a difference. Right now the administration forces them to focus on directing their energy on getting students through academic hoops by a certain stage – allowing little time to engage learners, develop relationships or embed ambitious resilience. Teachers are Everyday Heroes – my TEDx talk shows how five interrupted my trajectory and saved my life. They are so much more than ‘exam preppers’! They have an eye on the greater prize which involves helping young people live their best life, make great decisions and have qualifications that offer them more choice. I’m not concerned with the ‘how’ at the mo but the ‘WHY’ is bang on. It speaks to the most important question we need to ask: What are schools for?