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We need Leps for children, new report says

The northern powerhouse project must give as much attention to children as to economic regeneration, a new report has warned.

Growing up North, published by the Children’s Commissioner for England, calls for each local area to establish a forum similar to the structure of local enterprise partnerships (Leps) to bring together all the bodies working with children.

The report, the culmination of a year of interviews with children across the north of England and research into their progression and opportunities, found that too many disadvantaged children in the north of England are being left behind.

Many children are starting school far behind where they should be, and facing an education gap that widens as they move through the education system. More than half of all secondary schools in the north’s most deprived areas are judged to be less than good, and large numbers of children are dropping out of education before the age of 18.

Significantly, children in the north of England feel that economic regeneration, like that of the Northern Powerhouse project, will not lead to more jobs or opportunities for them.

A fear was expressed by girls in particular that regeneration was about shiny buildings and shops but not much more.

One child in Northumberland said: ‘They’ve done up the main thing to make it look nice, rather than getting things done that will actually benefit us.’

Many young people were worried about the environment they lived in, and understood how crime, lack of opportunity and a poor public perception of their area could lead to poorer impacts for them.

While the children interviewed were proud of where they come from, there was an understanding that their area compares badly to places like London, which many children saw as having more opportunities.

Many young people reported that there were few activities for them to do in their local area and that the situation was getting worse, and leading to increased crime.

One child from Liverpool said: ‘There’s nothing our way really, except Maccys and KFC.’

While a child from Newcastle said: ‘If you get abandoned houses people break in and just go and sit there because there isn’t anything else to do.’

The report calls for extra investment from government to support local councils in the north and improve children’s outcomes and life chances. It says that extra support for families is needed, and a renewed focus on early intervention through schemes such as children’s centres is needed.

It wants reform of the role of regional schools commissioner and a new northern schools programme to improve leadership and governance.

‘If the north is to flourish it needs to grow and retain the talents of all its children and truly offer the opportunities in life they hope for, said Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, introducing her report.

‘These are their demands for the Northern Powerhouse chiefs, the regeneration and civic leaders and northern Mayors that are designing and developing the north of the future.’

  • Read the report here.

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