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GCSE and A-level Results: Attainment Gap

Volume 824: debated on Thursday 8 September 2022

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the GCSE and A-Level results on the widening gap in attainment for children and young people in the North East of England compared to those in the South of England.

My Lords, I too associate myself with the wishes and prayers that people have for the Royal Family.

I submitted this topic for consideration, albeit in a short debate, because of my serious concern about the increasing number of vulnerable children in the north-east of England. The widening gap in attainment seen in the recent secondary school results exemplifies this.

Many organisations have done work on this and much research has been done on regional disparities. I do not have time to go through those statistics and all the different views, but I thank those who briefed me and are so concerned about this. It is clear from all of it that disparities arise not because children themselves are less bright. As I have said all my political life, I have not seen that children from the north-east are thicker than those in the rest of the country. Therefore, we have a responsibility to address why they end up the way they do, with much poorer attainment and more vulnerability than is appropriate or necessary.

What, then, explains this? The gap in A-level achievement between the south-east and the north-east has widened from 5.3% to 8.7% between 2019 and 2022. The north-east had the lowest number of students achieving A* and A grades at A-level—only 30.8%, compared with 39.5% in the south-east. We have to ask: what is going on? What leads to this?

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership says that we need to look at three things. The first is long-term deprivation and child property. Shockingly, the proportion of children living in relative poverty has risen more in the north-east than anywhere else. We had got it on a downward curve, and it was at least stable for a couple of years with the new Government post 2010, but since 2014 it has risen from 26% to 38% of children in the region living in relative poverty. I find that shocking in today’s world. This reflects not just unemployment but a low-wage economy, where families with only one earner are living below the poverty line. That affects the children.

Research shows that the intersection between long-term deprivation and certain ethnic groups, including white working-class children, is the strongest predictor of low attainment. The north-east has double the national average of pupils in these high-impact groups. That is why the allocation of funding for public services, in particular education, should reflect levels of deprivation, not political preference.

The second problem that has been identified is Covid and the pandemic. Pupils in the north-east missed 15.3% of lessons in the academic year 2020-21 and the autumn term of 2021-22, compared with 11.6% in London and 11.9% in the south-east. Significantly higher numbers of pupils were simply not in school, and we know that significantly high numbers did not have access to the equipment necessary for home learning.

The third thing is therefore the failure of the education recovery initiative, including the poor delivery of the National Tutoring Programme, to deliver effective catch-up. In the north-east, only 58.8% of target schools were reached by the National Tutoring Programme. It was 100% in the south-west and 96.1% in the south-east. What a pity that the Government did not accept the advice of their adviser at the time about what was necessary for effective catch-up.

I could talk about this for a very long time, but I know this is a short debate. But there we are: policies have been pursued over the recent decade and beyond which, far from levelling up, have increased disadvantage and the lack of opportunities in my region. As far as I am concerned, they are the salt of the earth. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham knows, it is God’s own country. However, we are letting children down massively.

I hope that the incoming Cabinet begins to understand this and produces activity to address it. We have the greatest inequality in our country of any western nation. Are we really proud of that? Are we really proud that we have less opportunity for young people here than in the rest of Europe? I think not. Child poverty was reducing in the north-east when I was in government. There was still a lot to do—I am not saying everything was wonderful—but we had begun to address those issues.

I cannot tell noble Lords the distress when I meet family members and colleagues who are running food banks and other programmes or working in schools at the moment. They are seeing day in, day out, families not just struggling but falling off the edge. The number of children not in school—we do not know where they are—has increased, as has the number of people who simply cannot get through the week without going to neighbours or friends for support and the number of schools which have lost teachers over the summer because their funding went down. We heard from the outgoing Chancellor that he changed the method of allocating money so that it did not go first and foremost to areas of deprivation and people living in poverty. That has to be changed. Members here have heard me go on before about the index of multiple deprivation. The Government not using it in their levelling-up fund is nonsensical.

We have to recognise the depth of this problem. It should not be a surprise to noble Lords or to the Government that deprivation and attainment are linked. I hope that in the promised announcements—I gather one announcement is due next week—the Government will tackle the fundamental problems faced by children. The Government will not achieve their ambition for growth if they ignore or neglect these issues because, in my view, the supply side is as important as the demand side, and we have heard very little about it. If the Government want productivity to improve and for employment to be at a higher level, addressing these issues in areas such as the north-east, which still depends on manufacturing, is critical. I hope the Government begin to understand this and address it.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, on securing this debate because it is a subject that is very close to my heart, as she well knows, as I have been chancellor of the University of Hull for the past 18 years. The reason I so wanted to take on that role was because it was not in the sunny, easy south, where educational and health opportunities are so much greater. I wanted to participate and really understand some of the issues in the north-east, in those areas where there are more intractable problems.

We know that inequalities are associated with socioeconomic, cultural and demographic factors, but the analysis is complex because there are young people from disadvantaged regions in London who achieve well. No one has a simple solution, but inequalities limit the potential of students’ life chances and impact on the productivity of regional economies. Ensuring equity of educational opportunities is a moral and ethical priority and, as I have said, an economic necessity. It underpins a robust competitive skills economy. Many good comments were made in the levelling-up White Paper about education and I very much hope that Simon Clarke, the new Secretary of State, will follow up on them, as will the fourth Secretary of State for Education in four months, Kit Malthouse—but how delighted we are to see our enduring, persistent and splendid Minister, my noble friend Lady Barran, still with us.

There is no doubt about the vital work that schools do to educate future generations. The Covid pandemic created unprecedented pressures and challenges for the education system. Much work has been done by the Sutton Trust, the Education Policy Institute and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, said, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Long-standing, intractable structural inequalities and economic disparities have been exposed and exacerbated. Those without space to study, without IT access or who have parents without IT skills have suffered most. Disadvantaged communities are less likely to have IT equipment to access online learning. They are less likely to have a learning space or access to broadband and data. Additionally, absenteeism—a persistent problem in the north-east—has substantially increased. The habit of regular school attendance, once broken, takes time to rebuild.

I welcome the many interventions that the Government announced, but we need to refine them and ensure that the north-east benefits from them. I hope the Minister can inform us of early signs of influence that the National Tutoring Programme has had. How can we enhance take-up in the areas most in need and with lower take-up?

Staffing problems are always serious. We need quality teachers. Schools are struggling to attract dedicated teaching staff, and areas of limited social mobility often struggle the most. Could the Minister comment on what benefits she envisages the levelling-up teacher salary premiums will have on schools in the north-east? I have strongly commended the Department for Education’s Opportunity for All White Paper. I wonder, though, what we are learning about EIAs, and whether there are any plans to modify them.

I believe the Government have a great responsibility, as do education authorities. However, the responsibility is much wider than that. I will mention one beacon: the Ron Dearing UTC in Hull, which had dramatic success and celebrated outstanding GCSE and level 2 technical results, surpassing expectations, even though its year 11 cohort of 150 spent much of their time studying online. It is an impressive demonstration of partnership. Reckitt, Siemens and Smith+Nephew work in partnership with schools and education institutes.

I particularly commend the work of the University of Hull, which has gone far beyond the call of duty to provide courses, programmes, letterbox delivery of online learning, “step up, move on” programmes for children in care and student mentors. It has delivered all manner of activities and IT skills from within its own budget and has long taken an enlightened and responsible view on the evident economic and social deprivation in the area. I particularly commend Professor Becky Huxley-Binns, the pro-vice-chancellor for education, the Fair Access Office and Humber Outreach Programme; they have really made a difference. We need a concerted approach. We must do more, and I believe we can.

My Lords, I commend my noble friend for securing this debate about regional inequality. It also raises the question of the value of GCSEs and A-levels. On the regional point, perhaps the most significant issue that I will raise is that of child poverty, which is up in the north-east by seven percentage points since 2010-11, against a background of it having begun to improve at one stage. Teachers never advance poverty as an excuse for lower attainment, but it can be a significant contributing factor. Attempts to narrow the attainment gap in the past decade or more have resulted in an ever-increasing narrowing of the curriculum and an ever-sharper focus on exam results, which has tended to leave many children, but poorer children in particular, with a less exciting and inspiring school experience.

In a recently published Times commission report, Michael Barber makes a proposal that I believe he picked up from the National Union of Teachers during his employment there: all primary schoolchildren should have what he calls a “bucket list”—I prefer an “entitlement” —of theatre trips, museum trips and sporting activities, and for secondary pupils he has an even longer list. Every child could and should access opportunities out of school that parents with the will and the means offer their own children.

Commentators have observed that there is potential everywhere but opportunity is far more restricted. The Times commission report, entitled Bringing out the Best: How to Transform Education and Unleash the Potential of Every Child, provides a trenchant critique of many aspects of our education system as it is at present, but it also offers much by way of practical policy suggestions and an optimistic vision of what education could and should be like.

So to the issue of GCSEs and A-levels: the first chapter of the commission’s report opens with the old saying that education is about the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel, yet in recent years the excessive focus on knowledge and exam results has not helped young people fulfil their potential. Education is of course not just about getting a job; much of what is missing from our curriculum is useful not just for employment but for life. Lucy Kellaway, the former Financial Times columnist, is now a teacher and made a profound contribution to the commission in these terms:

“I can feel that the exam system is disadvantaging my students. I think knowledge is really important but we’ve gone too far down that road now and our worship of exams is almost sinister.”

Many other views of that type are expressed in the commission’s report, but it also turns its attention to early years, noting that successful education systems—in Estonia and Finland, for example—do not see formal education begin until the age of seven but have highly regarded, respected and well-qualified systems of early-years provision from six months or possibly even younger. In England, many working with such young children have few qualifications and are paid the minimum wage—none the less working very hard and, I am sure, doing a good job. Even then, many parents say their childcare costs are higher than their rent or their mortgage, and the DfE’s own data shows that one-quarter of families find it difficult to meet their childcare costs. So poorer children often start at a disadvantage and fall ever further behind.

To return to GCSEs and A-levels, the commission has found that there is no other developed country whose teenagers sit as many high-stakes tests and that the focus on academic attainment has unbalanced the system. The report notes, too, the high financial cost of the system—as much as £6 million a year, cited in Parliament in 2008.

A further critique of the exam system comes from Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, and Dame Mary Beard, who describes GCSEs as past their sell-by date. I might say that even the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking—who I do not think is in his seat—who introduced GCSEs, has called for them to be scrapped. Sarah Fletcher, the high mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School, whom I have had the pleasure to meet, reported that 94% of teachers surveyed by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference thought that much reform was needed. As for A-levels, the commission concluded that a baccalaureate- style exam is more relevant now than ever. That was of course the view expressed many years ago by Mike Tomlinson in advice to Tony Blair, a view that Mike Tomlinson still holds, but alas it was not then taken up by the then Prime Minister.

The new Government now have an opportunity to address the cost of living crisis in the north-east and all regions where people are struggling, but they also have the opportunity to reflect on the Times commission and to discuss a transformative and radical change to our education system and our curriculum to ensure that we really can unleash the potential of every child.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, for the opportunity to debate this vital issue. As she said, we are letting children down. Regional gaps are growing: in the north-east this year, 22.4% of pupils achieved the top GCSE grades of seven or above, compared to 32.6% in London. At A-level, 30.8% of pupils in the north-east achieved top grades of A or A*, compared to 39.5% in London.

This is partly about incomes. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that a 16 year-old’s family income is more than four times as strong a predictor of GCSE attainment as their local authority of residence. This will only get worse in the face of the current crisis impacting so severely on the household budgets of low-income families, which is why the Government simply must take action to support those on low incomes. This is not just about the regional divide in attainment; it relates to the levels of poverty and household income across the country.

Three days ago, on Monday, the Department for Education released its analysis of the gap in achievement between poor primary school pupils in England and their peers taking key stage 2 SATs. This showed that the gap in achievement has reached a 10-year high, and there is evidence that the impact of Covid on poorer pupils was much greater than on others, one key reason being that lessons moved online in March 2020. The pandemic has made a widening gap even wider. This year, only 59% of pupils met the standard in all SATs subjects, compared with 65% in 2019. But the number of poorer pupils—those qualifying for free school meals—was only 43%, compared to 65% for other pupils.

The Government have made a major commitment to levelling up. In their levelling-up plan, they said that they will give

“everyone access to good schools and the opportunity to receive excellent education and training.”

Does that commitment still stand? I ask because Schools North East said on 25 August that the north/south gap showed that the measures taken to combat the impact of the pandemic were insufficient. Its director said that the pandemic had exacerbated

“serious perennial issues, especially that of long-term deprivation”.

Schools North East has called for a support plan, so will there be one? Will the Government beware economic and geographical factors being mistakenly presented as educational ones, as Schools North East has asked?

We should remember that north-east primary schools perform well in national terms. That performance reduces at secondary level, and one key reason is a lowering of aspiration. Better careers guidance in primary schools, plus curriculum reform to increase the teaching of design, technology, digital skills and creative subjects in secondary schools, would help deliver the aspiration that the Prime Minister called for yesterday.

This debate is about comparing London and the north-east, but that can be done successfully only if the Government review why London performs so well when, not many years ago, it did not. Major investment was made in the London school system to very positive effect. Will similar investment be made in schools across the north-east and all the more deprived regions? Will educational investment areas already announced be extended to many more schools and places? There is an existing levelling-up commitment to create 55 new educational investment areas where attainment is currently weakest. I submit that this is not enough. In 2019, the Government announced Opportunity North East initiatives, with up to 30 schools benefiting from expert guidance from other schools. Might this be expanded?

Money is at the heart of all this. Will there be more catch-up funding? Will the planned national funding formula address the imbalances identified? Will there be better pay for good teachers? Crucially, and finally, what will happen to school budgets now? The rising costs of pay, supplies and energy will put serious pressure on them. If levelling-up means anything, it must surely mean protecting schools’ ability to support disadvantaged pupils properly; are the Government committed to that?

My Lords, I begin by expressing, on behalf of these Benches, our concern for Her Majesty, and the assurance of our thoughts and prayers for her and the Royal Family.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for securing this debate and pay tribute to the way she has stood up for the young people of the north-east throughout her distinguished career. I declare my interests as chair of the National Society and the Durham Diocesan Board of Finance.

I begin by celebrating the success of our young people and their teachers, particularly those of the north-east, in the recent A-level and GCSE examination results in both schools and further education colleges. However, we cannot hide away from the gap between the north and the south of England—the stats have already been quoted, so I will not repeat them. The most recent figures continue to show that disadvantaged communities in the north continue to be hit hardest by the Covid pandemic and its impact on learning. Poverty is in every north-east postcode and is set to worsen. Headlines include, for example:

“In 2020/21, the North East overtook London to have the highest rate of child poverty in the UK, at 38%”.

Too many of our communities are named in the top 20. Although the latest UK-wide figures show that overall child poverty rates dropped slightly in the first year of the pandemic due to the temporary £20 uplift to universal credit, detailed breakdown shows that child poverty continued to rise in areas such as Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

While there have been efforts by the Government such as the National Tutoring Programme, in March 2021 this had reached only just over 58% of the target schools in the north-east, compared with the 100% and 96.1% quoted earlier by the noble Baroness. As the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Schools North East have pointed out, the lack of pre-existing infra- structure and the challenges around recruitment have exacerbated this problem. It is important to acknowledge that this has improved since the inclusion of school-led tutoring—which, if I remember rightly, was barred in the first instance. This suggests that the schools themselves are not at fault. How might this be further rolled out and secured?

The Government’s welcome package of spending is being invested in all our schools. However, this will not have the desired impact while schools are left to fund a deserved pay award and the increased costs of simply heating a school. This money will, in some cases, allow schools to stand still, but others will fall further behind. Strong multi-academy trusts will be unable to have the desired impact they are expected to achieve in the education investment areas if all the funding is required to keep open the doors of their existing schools. I had a conversation this week that predicted that, although it is not legally allowed, there will not be a single multi-academy trust in the north-east that will be able to set anything other than a deficit budget in the coming year.

The question of adequate funding in further education also arises here. Further education often helps people who have not done well at school to do better in their GCSEs, A-levels and other studies. What might be learned from that to help schools? The Government’s levelling-up White Paper set a target of increasing the percentage of children from the worst-performing areas meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by over a third by 2030. This will be achieved only if there is a focus not only on education but on children’s health, the adequacy of the housing in which they live and their capacity to access online support through good broadband and so forth. We need a fully thought-through and resourced recovery plan that is bespoke for the north to tackle the real issues of disadvantage, lack of resource and teacher recruitment and retention.

I ask the Minister: how will Her Majesty’s Government look again at the issues facing the north-east region and work collaboratively with local leaders to find long-lasting solutions that are fully funded and grounded in research-led initiatives that work? The schools and colleges themselves have demonstrated they are not the problem, but they certainly must be part of the solution.

My Lords, when I looked at this debate, I looked at the statistics and said, “Yes, there’s a problem”. I then looked at it again and said, “It ain’t the only place there’s a problem”. Then you look at it again and discover there are pockets of deprivation—let us face it, how many of us have read reports or sat through discussions in this place about deprivation in, for instance, rural towns and seaside towns? Wherever you have areas with lower economic expectation and financial support, you get worse educational results.

When you decide to invest in education as a parent or a child, you are putting huge effort in for something in the future. If there is nothing in the future that you feel that you can realistically attain, you are not going to do it. Also, with the best will in the world, you do not have the opportunity to support that person. The pandemic has proved this clearly. If you happened to be at home with your own computer in your own quiet room or space, you did fairly well; if you had one mobile phone between a family of four—we have all heard the horror stories—you did not do very well. Then you go back to an environment where you are behind and not achieving very well. So why would anybody sensible, who does not have any examples around them, invest time, effort and sacrifice to achieve? That child will not and, if their parents have had a bad experience, they probably will not push them either. We are in a cycle here and the Government have to intervene to change it, either through the school or by getting hold of parents—this is not easy; it takes time and is not just the responsibility of the Department for Education—to make sure that they value what they are going through and the sacrifice.

I remind the House of my interests in special educational needs and technical support. My pet subject is a classic example of this. If you have, say, a moderate dyslexic—that is the area I know most about—who is going through and is failing but is from a middle-class family, they find out why. The exam-passing classes make sure that they find out how you succeed, because they know you can. They know that it is not a big deal. They make sure that you can get through and get the support. They have the few hundred pounds, maybe few thousand pounds, to take on the system and push through.

If you come from an environment where nobody has passed any exams or maybe has passed just one, “What are you worrying about? You don’t need that for the jobs you’re going to do; you’ll do a job like me”. You can break that cultural link by making sure that teachers and the careers service start earlier and by making sure that people appreciate what is available to them by simply passing a few exams—you clearly do not have to be a genius to do that, because lots of people do it. All of us who have been to university know that, wherever it was, it was not manned by thousands of geniuses—there were some who had passed their exams who had trouble breathing without help, in my opinion.

If we go through this, it is the idea of reaching further in and making sure that people invest in it. That will make your job infinitely easier. We need support to get children through; many things have been talked about here that we could do, so I will not waste time by repeating them. Unless you get the intervention right to enable people to feel that the investment is not only beneficial but possible for the person doing it, they will not take it on. Your environment is a magnifying glass to your own personal cocktail of opportunity.

Unless we can make sure people understand that there is a possibility and a benefit from taking on these difficult choices, we will not do it. The levelling-up agenda should be something that addresses this. When the Minister replies—and I am, once again, reassured that she is still here; at least we have somebody who understands what is going on at the moment—will she give us some idea of how it ties in with the education agenda and how the departments are working together to achieve this? If there is a silver bullet, I very much doubt it is in the gun that the Department for Education by itself has at the moment.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing this important debate to the House and the many speakers who have spoken of the need to highlight the failings in the system in order to restore the horrendous inequalities we suffer as a nation because of the gaps we have in educating our children. I taught for almost 35 years, mainly in south Wales, which has a similar demographic to the north-east of England: low economic levels after years of deindustrialisation, low wages and low skill levels.

Bridget Phillipson MP, our shadow Education Secretary and a representative from the north-east, when responding to new research showing that half of pupils who get low grades at GCSE are already judged to be behind at age five, said: “The Conservatives are failing our children. Higher quality early years education is essential to boosting outcomes for children, but under the Conservatives, early years support is increasingly unavailable and unaffordable, putting this essential education out of reach of more families. Labour would be tackling this now, investing in children’s early learning through our children’s recovery plan and ending tax breaks for private schools to invest in driving up standards across all schools, for every child.”

I looked at the three-year research project by Professor Major of the University of Exeter to seek to understand why successive Governments have failed to address an issue that has continued to plague England’s education system for several decades. Failure to get a grade 4 in both English language and maths GCSE—notwithstanding my noble friend’s issues with GCSEs—is a strong indicator that teenagers lack the basic levels of literacy and numeracy needed to function and prosper in life after school.

In all my experience as a front-line classroom practitioner, one of my favourite phrases was, “Try to head off trouble at the pass.” I saw time and again that problems that were not picked up and resolved at an early stage of a child’s education persisted and deepened as they went through the secondary sector. Crucial to those issues was lack of literacy, especially reading and writing, but numeracy as well. Without these basic foundations, the rest of the curriculum becomes unreachable and progress is slow and poor.

The report Child of the North, from December 2021, highlighted that rising inequality costs the economy in lost potential. The research showed that children in the north have a 27% chance of living in poverty, compared to 20% in the rest of England. The report came up with a series of recommendations on how to narrow the gap and improve the lives and futures of millions of children in the north-east. Regional inequality was down to a lack of investment and it called for a £10 per child per week uplift in child benefit, bringing in free school meals, as we have done in Wales this week, and permanently feeding children during holidays. Investment in children creates high returns and benefits for society as a whole.

I have excellent examples of what Governments can do to deal with child poverty, because tackling child poverty has been, and continues to be, a priority for every Minister in the Welsh Government, who have to deal with one of the highest rates of deprivation in the UK. This includes continuing to strengthen families and communities through early intervention; prevention programmes, such as Flying Start and Families First, that you in England used to have but no longer; further developing an early childhood care and education system; improving employability; and creating secure, fair work and a living wage.

The current crises we face in these unprecedented times are difficult for those who have to make decisions, but burdens are never shared equally and children will suffer unequally. After two years struggling to cope with job losses, the pandemic, pay cuts and rising costs, families with children have been hit the hardest once again by the worst inflation seen in four decades.

I will leave the final thought to Imran Hussain, who is director of policy at Action for Children:

“Poverty destroys life chances. You cannot level up the country with millions of children in poverty so it’s vital the Government brings forward a credible plan to reduce poverty.”

My Lords, I start by echoing the sentiments expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top. I send my thoughts and prayers to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family.

I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions today and the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, in particular for her deep experience and understanding of the multiplicity of factors that impact on outcomes, especially in the north-east.

Like the right reverend Prelate, I congratulate students up and down the country, who should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved this year. Our plans were to ensure students could sit their formal summer exams safely and fairly for the first time since 2019. My thanks go to students, teachers and, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, pointed out, parents for the picture we are now seeing. Results this year are higher overall than in 2019 and lower than in 2021, when there was a different method of assessment.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, referred to the attainment gap in England between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. As your Lordships know, this had narrowed at primary and secondary levels between 2011 and 2019 before the disruption to our nation’s children and young people caused by the pandemic led to a widening of the gap. He asked for confirmation that the Government are still committed to the levelling-up programme and the different missions set out in the levelling-up White Paper. That is indeed the case. I hope that also addresses the point raised by the right reverend Prelate about the importance of addressing the kinds of issues that children in the north-east covered by today’s debate face by thinking about health, housing and wider infrastructure. In response to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, departments are working together to make that happen.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, asked about wider questions and challenges on wider change that, if I may, goes a little beyond the scope of this debate. However, I encourage her perhaps to try to secure a debate on those issues, as they warrant genuine discussion and understanding.

The Government are taking action to address the issues your Lordships have raised, both with specific support in place and broader interventions focused on disadvantage to give every child the education that allows them to achieve their potential. That aspiration is shared by all noble Lords in every part of this House.

When we look at schools in the north-east, it is clear that the quality of primary education is excellent, with 93% of schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted. This is reflected in the recent key stage 2 grades, which put the north-east as the second-placed region after London. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, will note this and share it with the shadow Secretary of State for Education; the Government absolutely agree on the importance of early years and a solid primary education. We have very much focused on starting with primary schools in the north-east, and I hope she will recognise the achievement of those schools in the region.

The picture at secondary is different. There have been significant improvements since 2018, in large part thanks to the work of the Opportunity North East programme, but in some local authorities too many schools are still rated by Ofsted as “Requiring improvement” or “Inadequate”. That is why we have plans to address this through the education investment areas programme and why we took powers to be able to intervene in schools which have been judged by Ofsted to be below “Good”—so “Inadequate” or “Requires improvement”—on multiple occasions. It is also why we are supporting the stronger multi-academy trusts to grow in the area.

The Government are investing in 55 education investment areas where we will implement a package of measures to drive school improvement and improve pupil outcomes. We are also investing to support our strongest trusts to expand, committing up to £86 million in trust capacity funding over the next three years, with a particular focus on these areas. Six of the 12 local authorities in the north-east are in education improvement areas: Darlington, Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland, and Middlesborough and Hartlepool are also priority education investment areas. The priority areas will receive a share of around £40 million of additional funding for bespoke interventions to address local needs. Although I am not sure that Hull yet qualifies as being part of the north-east—it might be edging north as we speak—I would like to acknowledge my noble friend’s comments about the partnership between the University of Hull and local schools, and commend universities and businesses in the north-east for doing similar work.

My noble friend asked about our plans in relation to attendance. In the levelling-up White Paper, we announced that the department is planning a new attendance pilot in a group of education improvement areas. In the north-east, in the first year this will support pupils in Middlesborough in particular. We are also incentivising new teachers to work in disadvantaged areas through our levelling-up premium and establishing an institute for teaching which will deliver cutting-edge training and will target disadvantaged areas.

I turn now to broader support. We are committed to helping pupils recover and close the attainment gap. We have already announced nearly £5 billion for education recovery, with many programmes, including the 16 to 19 tuition fund and the recovery premium especially focused on helping the most disadvantaged. Schools will continue to receive recovery funding and the additional funding received by secondary schools will nearly double from September, reflecting evidence that shows greater learning loss for older pupils who have less time left in education. In broad terms, this means a typical secondary school receives over £60,000 this year, up from £30,000.

A number of your Lordships referred to the National Tutoring Programme and, if I may, I did not recognise the numbers, but it may be a timing issue that the noble Baroness and the right reverend Prelate cited. Since 2020, 2 million starts have already been made by pupils on the National Tutoring Programme courses, with the latest data suggesting that over 80% of schools in the north-east—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, referred to 56% but the most recent data shows 80%—participated in the programme, which was higher than in London and the south-east and the south-west. In response to the right reverend Prelate’s question, from academic year 2022-23, all funding for the National Tutoring Programme will go through the school-led approach.

We will also be targeting a greater proportion of the schools national funding formula towards deprived pupils. In 2022-23, 9.8% of the schools NFF will be allocated through deprivation factors.

This Government remain committed to improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils of all abilities and across all regions. In partnership with schools in the region we have created a strong platform in primary to move the dial in secondary schools. Along with our focus on education investment areas, this will help to address the number of schools in the region which have been rated as requiring improvement more than once and will drive up outcomes. We know that there is more to do to build on our collective successes so far, and we will continue to ensure that our programmes and funding are delivering the help that is needed, now and in the future, including learning from what is working best and where we need to do more to support children to fulfil their potential and have the lives they aspire to.