New analysis finds schools funding imbalance risks widening regional childhood inequalities


Northern schools are losing out on hundreds of pounds of funding per pupil compared to those in London, according to a new report released today (11 September 2023) co-authored by the University of Liverpool's Professor David Taylor-Robinson.

Over the last 10 years, ongoing inequalities in funding have meant schools in the North of England have received less money from the National Funding Formula (NFF) on average than their southern counterparts.

The new analysis, by academics from the Child of the North group – a partnership between Health Equity North and N8 Research Partnership - on behalf of the Child of the North All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), found that on average pupils in London received 9.7% more funding than those in the North.

Schools in London received an average of £6,610 per pupil compared to £6,225, £5,956, and £5,938 in the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and The Humber, respectively.

Children in the most affluent schools in the country had bigger real terms increases in funding than those in the most deprived ones, despite the increased burden placed on these schools due to wider societal issues that impact the families they serve.

This inequity corresponds with children in the North having higher school absences, including health and mental health absences, and educational performance is poorer.

The Child of the North: Addressing Education and Health Inequity report also highlights that children born into the poorest fifth of families in the UK are almost 13 times more likely to experience poor health and educational outcomes by the age of 17.

This poses a risk for public services in future years, as the long-term consequences of poor education can not only impact physical and mental health, but can also place great pressure on the NHS, social care, and criminal justice system in future.

It has prompted rallying calls for immediate action to address the imbalance from northern MPs and academics, who have set out a suite of recommendations to help level the funding playing field.

The Child of the North APPG members and report authors are calling for an overhaul of the current school funding formula, so it takes into consideration attainment inequalities and the health burden borne by schools, to prevent these disparities continuing to increase.

The report also illustrates how public services in the North of England have come together to create innovative approaches that bring health and education together to deal with the poor outcomes faced by children and young people.

It includes examples of regional evidence-based collaborative initiatives that can provide a blueprint for transformational change nationally.

The report highlights groundbreaking projects in the North that showcase the power of working collaboratively and resource sharing to achieve transformational changes on pupils’ educational achievement and lives.

This includes a first-of-its-kind connected database in Bradford that contains the primary and secondary care health records of citizens linked with education records, social care, and policing data.

The tool allows scientists, working with policymakers, to undertake holistic data science that can shine a light onto critical social issues that span disparate services. This provides a proven methodology that can be scaled up across the North of England to inform a national approach.

In addition, there are also insights from young people and school leaders who give a first-hand perspective on how the issues highlighted in the report affect them.

Kim Johnson MP for Liverpool Riverside, and Vice-Chair of the Child of the North APPG, said: "The findings of this report, which highlights the stark reality of the deepening trend of inequality between children born in the North and their southern counterparts are shocking, but unfortunately unsurprising. As we have seen highlighted in recent GCSE results, there is a clear and widening education attainment gap between the regions.

“Over the past 13 years, funding in key public services in the North have been falling behind the rest of the country, driving up poverty and creating large disparities in educational attainment and access to mental and physical health services. This is depleting opportunities for children living in the region, even more so for Black children and those with Special Educational Needs who are being disproportionately impacted by structural inequalities.

“As the report indicates the first 1001 days of a child's life have a lifelong impact on their health as well as educational attainment and life chances. The piecemeal funding and sticking plaster solutions we have seen from successive Governments, over the last 13 years, have done nothing to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities that have created such disparity between the life chances of those living in North. If children are to have the best possible start in life, we need a Government prepared to properly invest in our public services and our communities with a commitment to tackle regional inequality as a key priority.

“Your birthplace should never be a barrier to accessing opportunity, but at the moment for children across the North, as this report identifies, all too often where you come from defines how far you will go."

Professor David Taylor-Robinson, Health Equity North Academic Director, Professor of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool, and co-author of the report, said: “We know that the North of England has some of the highest child poverty rates in the country and this report makes clear the impact that living in poverty can have on children while they’re at school.

“For the past decade the North has lagged behind the rest of the country in educational funding, whilst the inequalities faced by children in the region has continued to increase as a result of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

“If we are to give all children an equal start in life, no matter where they live, there needs to be action to address childhood inequalities early, as these can be incredibly difficult to address after young people leave education settings.”

The report was prepared by experts from northern organisations and universities for the APPG Child of the North. The APPG brings together policy makers and experts in child outcomes from across the country to find solutions to the disparities suffered by children in the North of England. Child of the North is a partnership between Health Equity North and N8 Research Partnership.

Click here to read the full report.