6th December 2016

Northern regeneration offers once in a generation opportunity to reshape prospects for children

A mixed picture for children growing up in the North: 

  • There are 3.5 million children in the North of England
  • Starting school – children in the North of England tend to be behind those of children in the South (as measured on the Early Years Goals). The difference isn’t huge, but there are clear problems in several northern areas
  • At 11 years – some northern areas do very well, particularly in the North East. 56% of children in the North East reach the expected standard at KS2 – more than those in any other part of the country apart from inner London (57%)
  • At 16 – Northern areas have failed to keep track with the big improvement in London schools. A pupil from a disadvantaged background was 41% more likely to get 5 A*- Cs in London than in the North of England in 2015
  • At 18+ – A young person leaving school or college in the North has a similar chance of going to University, but it is much less likely to be a top university. In London and the South East a young person leaving education having done at least 1 A-level or equivalent is 57% more likely to go to a top-third university compared to someone in the North of England.

Read our Growing up North prospectus here.

In adulthood

  • There are big pay and income discrepancies between the North and South and a particular issue with women’s pay: in Hartlepool a woman earns an average of £252 a week, while a man earns an average of £497. In Camden a woman earns an average of £560 a week while a man earns an average of £679 (source).
  • Of the 10 cities in England with the lowest employment rates, 8 are in the North.


Regeneration underway in the North of England provides a once in a generation opportunity to reshape the prospects for all children in the North and put their prospects on a par with those in the South, according to Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.

Commenting at the launch of Growing Up North, a major new project that aims to find out why some children in the North fall behind their counterparts in the South, Anne Longfield called for Northern regeneration chiefs to seize the opportunities to dramatically improve choices and outcomes for all children in the region.

The analysis of data on educational attainment and outcomes shows considerable variation within the region. On the whole, children in the North do better at primary school and new research for the Children’s Commissioner suggests that they report better wellbeing at the age of 11 but by the time they become adults, a gap in outcomes and attainment emerges.

Growing Up North seeks to understand how growing up in a particular area impacts on the chances a child has going into adulthood and make recommendations to improve these.

The year-long project is being led by the Children’s Commissioner for England and supported by a panel of high-profile experts. It will use the Children’s Commissioner’s unique powers to gather data on children to examine the factors that influence children’s progression. It will also consider how institutions and networks can be strengthened to support children to realise their ambitions.

The project will focus on the North because of the regeneration underway in the region but the findings will be applicable in other areas of the country.

Commenting at the launch of Growing Up North, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said:

“The economic disadvantage of the North is well established but as a place for children to grow up the reality is far more complex. Whilst there are parts of the North where children fall behind there are places where they excel.

“The regeneration underway provides a unique opportunity to reshape prospects for children in the North. I want every child, wherever they are born, to get the same opportunities and support to prosper. To do this, we need to understand why children do better in some parts of the country than others and what it is about the place they grow up in that supports them to succeed. Growing up North will put children at the heart of discussions about Northern regeneration. It’s time to leave the North-South divide behind.