BLOG: The North – South Divide: Fact or Fiction?

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This week, Steve Docking, NWAT CEO, gives his reaction to The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield’s opinion that parents in the North of England should be more pushy on their children’s behalf.

As from 1st January 2017 the North of England is closed. All school children and their parents are being compulsory rehoused in the South, this does not include Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire as these areas need to remain holiday destinations. The South, more specifically the South East corner of our homeland, is a far more rigorously demanding and academically excellent part of the country due to an army of ‘Tiger parents’. Northern parents will all be partnered with pushy southern parents who will show them the way. We will create a league table which will highlight groups of parents with the biggest push indicators, progress will be measured with strategic push offs and the harder we all push the better their children will achieve. Utter nonsense…

A parent’s job is to work in partnership with the child’s school and aim to achieve realistic but highly aspirational goals for their children. Schools work best when this partnership is based on mutually respect and a trust on behalf of the parents that the school is doing the best job imaginable for their children. As schools we must make sure we bend over backwards to support all learners and that we create a climate that allows children to thrive. Schools do vary in quality throughout the country and indeed in The Times list of the top 500 primary schools in country Southern schools dominated the top positions. It’s the same story for the independent sector. Why then?

While having parents that love, nurture and support you to achieve your best is vital, being aware of what is realistic is also important and when this balance is achieved children will excel. The problem we face with the variation in results is not as simple as a North/South divide or parental involvement, it is all about aspiration. The bright lights and big money of our larger cities creates a culture of relentless drive and ambition that can appear to leave others lagging behind. Having said that, London also boasts some of the worst child poverty and educational outcomes in the country. So perhaps instead of making this about postcodes or helicopter parenting we need to look more deeply into what causes a lack of aspiration within certain parts of the UK – North and South.

Education is about equipping children with the tools they need in life to achieve well, aim high and become a meaningful member of society. Parents can push as hard as they like, but unless there is something worthwhile to push towards, beyond the safety of the academic bubble, it’s pointless. We should be opening their eyes from a very early age to the endless opportunities a great education can afford them. Rather than parents just pushing for results, perhaps illustrating where those results can take them both professionally and personally is a better solution.

Whilst as school leaders we want our children to achieve highly, one area we can all improve on is demonstrating what this achievement can mean beyond the classroom. This is one area all schools and parents, North and South, ‘could do better’ on…