With George Osborne, the Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, appearing before the Education Select Committee this morning, a Burnley-based social enterprise working with local children has stressed the importance of solutions that work for all students.
Aspire Behaviour Management, which works with primary school pupils, their schools, and families to help prevent exclusions and improve lives, welcomed the potential for increased funding for education, but insisted that solutions proffered by the NPP had to be sufficiently tailored so as to benefit children from deprived backgrounds who exhibit challenging behaviour.
A former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Osborne was at the House of Commons alongside NPP Vice-Chair Lord Jim O'Neill, and Director Henri Murison, following the publication of their Educating the North report, with the 16-year Conservative MP for Tatton outlining an ambition to close the gap between the North and the South in terms of educational attainment.
"All of us are passionate about the North of England and how it can be greater still," explained Osborne. "The whole concept of the [NPP] was we can take some fantastic things and make them better by working together. Education performance has improved in the North [but] the gap with the South has remained. We can close that gap."
Gill Bullock, Director and Founder of Aspire - which supported over 100 schools across the North West and Yorkshire and which runs the Aspire Hub in Burnley - welcomed the NPP's report, but pointed to Aspire's ambition to tackle the impact of economic disadvantages as being key to improving education in the North.
"We must show we care about the education of all children if we are to truly improve education in the North," Gill said. "The children who we support will very rarely have just one thing going on in their lives; there are often a whole host of challenges that involve working with the family as well as the school."
Boasting a success rate of 90%, the Aspire Hub offers short-stay placements to Early Years and Primary school children aged between the ages of four and eight years who are at high risk of permanent exclusion to support their transition back to school, and helped over 40 children last year with a further 70 attending so far in 2018.
“We’re based in Burnley - unemployment rates are higher here than elsewhere in Lancashire and there’s also a lot of in-work poverty," Gill said. "If families are struggling to make ends meet and then on top of that you have a young child showing challenging behavior and in danger of being excluded, that’s a lot to contend with.
"That’s why the support we provide is so appreciated, but sadly places like our Aspire Hub are few and far between," she added. "We’ve clearly shown that by working intensively with children at primary age you can turn their life chances around."