Michael Wilshaw: Manchester and Liverpool pupils’ performance could kill northern powerhouse

Wilshaw JFS

School performance in Manchester and Liverpool could kill plans for a ‘northern powerhouse’, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will warn today.

Sir Michael will claim in a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) that pupil achievement in the two cities integral to plans for revitalising the north of England are “going into reverse”.

The speech follows a gloomy picture of education in the north painted by Ofsted’s annual report. Sir Michael highlighted what he called “a nation divided at age 11”, referring to the discrepancy between secondary school performance in the north and midlands compared to those in the south.

But council leaders told Schools Week they are not complacent about attainment and are already making plans for school improvement.

Sir Michael will say that three in 10 secondary schools in Manchester and four in 10 in Liverpool were judged by Ofsted inspectors as inadequate or require improvement.

He will also point out that the proportion of Manchester’s pupils gaining five GCSEs grade A* to C, including English and mathematics, declined from 51 per cent two years ago to 47 per cent this year. In Liverpool the percentage fell from 50 per cent to 48 per cent over the same period.

These changes are against a backdrop of national results decline. In 2013, the national pass rate including English and maths was 59.2 per cent. In 2015 it dropped to just 53.8 per cent, according to government performance tables.

Sir Michael will use the speech to call on local politicians to “shoulder responsibility for their local schools” and make education a “central target of their strategy for growth”.

Liverpool’s assistant mayor for education Nick Small said he agreed that getting people skilled for jobs of the future was a key requirement of northern powerhouse development, but warned about the impact of a centralised schools policy and “narrow EBacc 1950s education” in schools.

He said: “The recent Liverpool Challenge conference shows that when we all work together – business, our universities, schools and colleges and mayor – we can achieve more together.”

Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council’s lead member for schools, told Schools Week her authority had been working “non-stop” with schools in recent years to improve outcomes.

She said: “Our results last year obviously saw a dip, but far from ignoring this we’ve taken a long hard look at the issues involved and have put a series of measures in place to overcome these, because we’re simply not prepared to sit back and watch our pupils fail.”

Sir Michael, however, is expected to say that while the cities “could transform the prospects of the entire region – but as far as secondary education is concerned they are not firing on all cylinders. In fact they seem to be going into reverse”.

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  1. Alison Cameron

    Michael Wilshaw’s relentless assault on teachers is likely to cause more damage than one can possibly imagine. He is clearly a firm believer in a ‘blame culture’, and is somehow under the impression that this approach will help pupils and schools. Teachers enter their profession because they have a desire to work with young people, they bring with them commitment and enthusiasm, and work in some of the most challenging circumstances. Mr Wilsher is slowly but surely determined to destroy that commitment, leaving teachers demoralised, exhausted, and defeated. Is it any wonder that 30% of teachers are now looking for alternative employment? I sincerely hope that no teachers pay any heed to this verbal abuse and keep on doing what they are doing. It’s Jeremy Hunt all over again ……

  2. Janet Downs

    Lambasting LAs in the North can be counterproductive and lock them in a spiral decline. This is particularly true of tiny Knowsley which got a severe kicking (not the first time) despite Ofsted monitoring finding that four of the six secondary schools were taking ‘effective action’ to improve (one of the others hadn’t been monitored, another hadn’t be inspected post conversion). See here for more details: