Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Why Social Mobility Matters in Reading

Even if you don't have time to read the whole document, the executive summary of the Coalition Government's Social Mobility Strategy makes salutary reading:
"There is a long way to go. The income and social class of parents continue to have a huge bearing on a child’s chances.
  • Only one in five young people from the poorest families achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with threequarters from the richest families.
  • 25% of children from poor backgrounds fail to meet the expected attainment level at the end of primary school, compared to 3% from affluent backgrounds.
  • Almost one in five children receive free school meals, yet this group accounts for fewer than one in a hundred Oxbridge students.
  •  Only a quarter of boys from working-classbackgrounds get middle-class (professional or managerial) jobs.
  • Just one in nine of those with parents from low income backgrounds reach the top income quartile, whereas almost half of those with parents in the top income quartile stay there. 
  • Only 7% of the population attend independent schools, but the privately educated account for more than half of the top level of most professions, including 70% of high court judges, 54% of top journalists and 54% of chief executive officers of FTSE 100 companies.
  • The influence of parental income on the income of children in Britain is among the strongest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Parental income has over one and a half times the impact on male incomes in Britain compared with Canada,Germany and Sweden.
This is Labour's real legacy to the young people of this country and it is a terrible one: not to have improved the life chances of many of the UK's poorest children.

Nick Clegg has long championed the need to do something about the fact that in parts of the UK the poorest children overtaken by richer ones in education by the age of 7 and I'm delighted he is using the platform of Government to try and bring about change.

This is as important at local level as it is nationally. Here in Reading where you are born and your background continues to exert a powerful influence on your ability to succeed.

This is wrong and I am committed to doing everything in my power to improve the life chances of everyone in our community - whatever their background. This is one of the issues that gets me out of bed in the morning and drives me to put the crazy hours I do into politics at local level.

I am driven in part because I realise how lucky I have been compared to others in my own life and I want to help others who haven't been so lucky.

I am state-school educated but I freely admit I have benefited from the sort of opportunities that many others have not such as work-experience and access to social networks of family and friends.

The Pupil Premium will  help us do that by investing in education of the poorest children in our community. Increasing apprenticeships in Reading also helps us do that as a Council.

At national level we will have for the first time up a joined-up cross-government approach that focusses resources on reducing child poverty - something Labour failed to do in 13 years.

Improving educational outcomes and social mobility is urgent in Reading where one in five children live in poverty.

In my role as Lead Member for Housing, Health and Community Care I take a keen interest in measures to tackle poverty and I was really pleased to see the role housing plays in the Government's new Child Poverty Strategy published today:
"Having a stable, good quality home to live in is a basic necessity. Children in bad housing conditions are more likely to have long-term ill health, slow physical growth and delayed cognitive development. A review by the British Medical Association highlighted the links between housing and a range of physical and mental health issues. Poor quality housing is associated with reduced mental well-being and housing conditions in childhood can have a long-term impact on health, even if conditions improve."
"The wider community in which a child grows up can also influence their future outcomes. The poorer the neighbourhood, the more likely it is to have high rates of crime, poor air quality, lack of green spaces and safe places for children to play.100 The report of the Government’s champion for active, safer communities, Baroness Newlove, demonstrates the contribution communities can make to keeping their neighbourhoods safe and how services can support communities to lead this work."
And I am proud that Nick Clegg is spearheading work across government to ensure that "birth is never destiny".  I would like to add my own aspiration: better to try and fail to build a more socially mobile society in Reading using the tools we have available than never to have tried at all.

1 comment:

  1. I totally and whole heartedly agree, but one must be careful to raise expectations of the young, raise understanding and concepts of academic rigour and deadlines and change the common attitude that vocational education is just for the ' thickies doing practical jobs like building'. You don't need to go to university to get practical training and hands on training in marketing, hr, accountancy, team leadership but businesses do need to open their doors to level 3 students to give them that opportunity! We also need to end the nepotism culture and work for free internship culture of industries such as fashion and music that are only accessible to the independently wealthy who can support their children.
    John Oakley