Achieving Educational Excellence in Knowsley: A review of attainment

Publication Details

Launched on October 31st, Achieving Educational Excellence in Knowsley, signposts the way ahead for the Knowsley Education Commission to reverse the cycle of underperformance in the borough and deliver genuine educational excellence. Yet beyond this, it also serves to make wider policy recommendations to Government about what is needed in places like Knowsley all around the country, where disadvantaged White British pupils have been too often left behind.

The education system has been repeatedly reformed by a succession of governments and yet many schools across the country continue to under-perform, blighting the life chances of too many young people. Poor educational attainment is particularly problematic in the North and it has been identified as a drag on the potential for economic growth, putting at risk ambitions to revive England’s northern cities and create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council has commissioned this review of education performance to help catalyse a step change in the quality of education provision in the Borough and kick start a process of improvement to be overseen by the Knowsley Education Commission.

Achieving Educational Excellence identifies the key features of successful schools – in supporting disadvantaged pupils to achieve – and makes a wide range of recommendations to Local and Central Government, the Education Commission, Schools and City Region partners to drive forward improvements. At the same time, there is a broader opportunity: in creating an approach that supports their pupils, families and schools, Knowsley can point the way for many areas with similar challenges and offer a path towards long term educational attainment.

Welcoming the report, Neil Carmichael MP, Chair, Education Select Committee, said: “The referendum on Europe has brought the challenges facing the UK, and in particular, the North of England, into sharp relief.  I believe the next few years will be tough but if we take action to improve numeracy and literacy in our workforce, improve social mobility and can confront the causes of the productivity gap between the UK and our competitors in order to make the best use of the talents and be ready to make the necessary sacrifices, we can all try and make a success of the decision to leave the European Union.  Much of this rests on improving the outcomes for pupils in all our schools.

“For some time there has been a feeling the white working class have been left behind by the education system.  The Education Select Committee highlighted these concerns in a report in June 2014 and this study into the Knowsley area sadly confirms the continuing scale of that problem. Much more must be done to support these deprived communities, and I welcome ResPublica’s call for a renewed focus on both local and national solutions.”

Report author and Principal Research Consultant at ResPublica Mark Morrin said: “Setting higher targets for schools and encouraging them to achieve more has been shown to work. This does not mean putting all the pressure on teachers – government, councils and parents all have a role to play and must be involved in the education process from start to finish.

“Knowsley is looking for change and if successful this could work as a benchmark across the country.”

Director of ResPublica Phillip Blond said: “For too long white working class children have been left behind by an education system which is not working properly.

“With a new education secretary we have the chance to implement change, not only in Knowsley where we know that improvements need to be made but across the whole of the country.

“Re-introducing grammar schools is potentially a transformative idea for working class areas where there are little or no middle classes to game the admission system. We know that selection improves the performance of those white working class children selected – the trouble is too few of them are. We recommend that new grammars in the first instance are exclusively focused on the needs of white working class children.”

  • Mark Morrin

    Principal Research Consultant

    Mark is an experienced policy and research strategist with over 20 years working in partnership with businesses, public bodies, cities and counties to develop successful place-making strategies. Mark has contributed widely to research and policy developments in the UK with...

    Mark Morrin
  • Emily Crawford

    Emily joined ResPublica in June 2015, and acts as Principal Research Consultant, with a focus on health and public services. She is a specialist in the transformation of public services, including the health, social care and welfare to work sectors....

    Emily Crawford