03Policy priority 3: A longer term vision

Make improving school performance a top priority for the city region

  • Trial initiatives to boost school performance in the areas of the city region that need it most
  • Enable school leavers to get the qualifications they need to access and create the jobs of the future
  • Make best use of the visibility of the role to challenge schools that are underperforming.

Prioritise improving school performance

Perhaps of greatest concern for the future of the city region economy is the poor results of school leavers. 53 per cent of students achieve five good GCSE results (A*-C) compared with 58 per cent of students for England and Wales. In an increasingly polarised job market, school leavers without good results will be at a distinct disadvantage for years to come so areas with poor performing schools should be targeted.

The low attainment levels can partially be attributed to poor performing schools. The city region has an overall Progress 8 score of -0.3. This means that students starting at a similar position perform considerably better on average elsewhere in the country than they do in the Liverpool City Region, especially in Maths. This is a persistent challenge for the area, and the solutions, while crucial, are not simple.

Position the City Region as the test bed for innovative approaches

The metro mayor will not have direct powers over education but should be using his or her visibility and position to call on central government to commit to school reform pilots in the Liverpool City Region, including for proposals set out by Sir Nick Weller for ‘Teach North’. Trials and investment could be targeted at particular areas that are in need, for example Knowsley, where just 37 per cent of students achieve five good GCSEs (the lowest proportion in the country) as opposed to Wirral, where two thirds of students achieve these results.

The metro mayor could also consider options such as developing the US model of offering additional funding for good quality teachers that move to the area. An alternative as set out by Weller would be for the cityregion to offer enhanced Career Progression Pathways, or an adaption of the Teach First program. This way the poorest performing areas of the city region would better attract top calibre teachers.

Evaluate the impact of these pilots effectively

The key to making best use of these pilots is to ensure they are designed with the best evaluation techniques that are suitable – from the beginning of the process. This includes defining success, finding a control group and ensuring the most relevant data is collected and evaluated. The metro mayor has the opportunity to ensure there are huge improvements in schools that affect the life chances of young people across the city region but measuring and evaluating initiatives will be as important as the level of funding they allocate.


Ed Clarke Analyst, Centre for Cities
e.clarke@centreforcities.org | 020 7803 4308