Early intervention key to closing productivity gap, CIPFA conference told

13 Jul 17

The UK’s productivity problem starts with early years education as failures at this stage have repercussions throughout people’s lives, the CIPFA conference heard.

Mike Blackburn CIPFA conference

Mike Blackburn told the CIPFA conference that early intervention was crucial

Mike Blackburn, chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said part of the reason why the UK lags behind its European counterparts in terms of productivity is down to knock-on effects of failures through the education system. These have serious consequences when school leavers enter the world of work. 

Speaking at the conference yesterday, Blackburn stressed that Greater Manchester’s strategy for inclusive growth focuses on the need to invest in early intervention as a means to deliver growth and reform services.

“Too many children are not ready for school, so the foundations are not in place to allow them to begin their learning journey,” he stated.

“We have far to many children in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds who are arriving at year one, reception age, who are not ready for school, they are not toilet trained, there are still in nappies at four years old.”

He continued: “This has a knock on effect later on when too much of the reducing amount of public funding available for adult skills is being spent bring adults up to the required levels,” he said.

Blackburn said he is a governor at a secondary school in Manchester where many children aged 11 have a reading age of 7 and 49% of Year 7 pupils have breathing problems which effects their ability to receive a proper education.

This school is now working with its 14 feeder primary schools through an integrated social, health and educational programme to address these issues at as early a stage as possible.

Blackburn said it was the LEP’s ambition to make Manchester a financially self-sustaining city with the assets, the skilled population and the economic and political influence to rival any global city.

However he said the city region’s £60bn economy still had an output gap around £10bn below the national average.

He noted: “At a national level, per hour productivity in the UK is lower than in France, Germany and the US.

“Workers in those countries produce on average in four days as much as the UK workers do in five.”

Blackburn noted that the UK had a shortage of technical skills below graduate level, particular in sectors which require STEM subjects and the UK ranks 16th out of 20 OECD countries for the proportion of people with technical skills.

The economist Vicky Pryce also spoke at yesterday’s event and she too highlighted the UK’s issue with the lack of so-called “middle-skilled jobs”.

“It’s middle skills where a lot of the attention needs to go,” she said.

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