Sir Michael Wilshaw’s recent comments on the future of the Northern Powerhouse  have added significant weighting to a long standing discussion around supporting schools and young people to achieve their best regardless of their size, location or status.

There is a list of recent surveys and research that show that some schools in the North are not academically performing as well as their Southern counterparts.  Recent statistics from the APPG on Social Mobility highlight the hot spots and cool spots of academic achievement and employability and show the clear identification of pocket areas of inequality in the once economically prosperous regions of the North.

Sir Michael Wilshaw is clearly correct in identifying the need for collaboration and partnership within Local councils and communities to raise standards and thus economic growth – the question is posed around how is this done effectively?

Lucy Powell in the Guardian Education commented on the evidence base over the past few years and pointed to strong local partnerships and collaboration being key in raising standards and supporting underperforming schools to achieve.  The robust action she talks about being present in the South are not easily recognisable in the North at present it seems.

One school tackling this educational inequality in the North of England is  Blue Coat, Oldham. A Church of England convertor academy for students aged 11-18, the school is located on a town-centre site in a ward that is amongst the 5% most deprived in England.  Something relatable it has with many towns in the North that it is hugely oversubscribed and sits in an area with a high level of economic deprivation.

Blue Coat like other schools looked at their academic performance and personal development of students and some concerns about the well-being of Y11 pupils were raised and investigated to identify how students could maximise their own potential to improve academic performance.

The school decided to design and deliver a series of mental toughness lessons. Establishing the 4C’s Mental Toughness model (developed by AQR and Professor Peter Clough) was the best fit to the school’s context, broad programme aims to help students reach their potential.

AQR have been working with Blue Coat to develop programmes that can be delivered in collaboration with other schools to develop confidence, control, challenge and commitment in the young people and future workforce in the region.  Reports from the school show that there are significant signs that by increasing personality traits, or mental toughness, this will help raise academic performance and opportunities for the future.

While Sir Wilshaw calls for more collaborative partnerships and focus on individual growth for future economic stability we agree wholeheartedly and encourage more organisations to get involved in raising standards and personal development to ensure there is a stable and effective workforce for the future, not only in the North, but everywhere.

If you’d like more information about the Mental Toughness measure or like to request the full report from Blue Coat School, please contact Ben McGrath on

AQR is a leading edge publisher of psychometric measures, we also work through partner organisations. For more information please visit

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