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What does ‘levelling up’ mean for your school?

The release of the Governments ‘Levelling Up’ white paper, comes with a number of references to schools and colleges. Broken down into twelve levelling up “missions”, emphasising the increases in academic attainment across all age groups along with focuses on health and wellbeing, with almost all targets being for 2030. 

Arguably two missions (Missions 5 and 6) stick out as being particularly relevant to schools and colleges but there are several other missions which are still very much related. It’s worth emphasising that this isn’t yet law, nor does it detail how you will be asked to implement the ideas, but we hope this summary was nevertheless useful.

Mission 5: The Attainment Target for Primary schools

Described in the report as an “elimination” of “illiteracy and innumeracy” - two highly-charged terms for those children who don’t reach EXP, so brace yourself for liberal use of these buzzwords by politicians over the coming decade.

55 new Education Investment Areas (EIAs) will direct financial support to the weakest performing areas. A UK National Academy will be set up: a free online resource service to support schools. The Department of Education will also offer retention payments to help you retain teaching staff. There is a (slightly contradictory) pledge to ensure that talented disadvantaged children have access to “a post-16 provider with a track record of progress on to leading universities” by opening new “specialist sixth form free schools”. (These new schools will get priority for the retention payments.)

Mission 6: Skills provision for Secondaries and FE 

Comments in the white paper include:

“Our reforms will put local employers at the heart of skills provision”


“Funding of courses and the governance of colleges will be overhauled in line with employers’ needs”

The government is setting up Local Skills Improvement Plans to link skills training to local “labour market needs”, and wants to create “lifetime access” to training. It will also set up nine new Institutes of Technology (in England) to boost STEM provision.

Impact on school leadership - reporting and accountability

Many of these targets are guided by economics: p3 of the white paper talks about the “potentially enormous economic prize”; an economist is the only person named as a member of the new Levelling Up Advisory Council that will provide “support and constructive analysis”; and the quotations in the government’s announcement blog are all from industry.  

Going forward, we can expect a continued focus on finance in the way we report on many of these targets. This will likely lead to an increase in reporting duties for head teachers and trust leaders. The white paper promises that the government will “transform its approach to data and evaluation”, including:

  • An annual report on mission progress (including “rigorous external scrutiny”)
  • New “interactive tools” to help local agencies “map local economic geographies”
  • “innovative uses of real-time data at the local level”
  • A new independent body “to improve transparency” in local performance


Other missions of note

Mission 9 (local pride)

  • Increase on cultural spending outside London
  • Emphasis on the co-curriculum: a National Youth Guarantee that every young person has access to “regular out of school activities, adventures away from home, and opportunities to volunteer” by 2025
  • Co-curriculum also a focus of Missions 7 (health) and 8 (wellbeing)
  • Some money being released to support the third sector, particularly for vulnerable people and including “youth and social investment”

Mission 3 (local transport) and Mission 10 (housing) affect the work we do supporting our children’s families outside school:

  • Minimum standards for rented housing
  • An end to no-fault evictions
  • Creation of a landlords register
  • Increase in affordable social housing
  • Local public transport “to be significantly closer to the standards of London”

Mission 11 (anti-social behaviour / crime)

  • Increase in community service for offenders
  • Police gain power to deal with noise nuisance
  • Development of Drugs Strategy to focus on worst-affected neighbourhoods