Column: exam results and social mobility

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 17th August:

It’s that time of the year again, where young people across Barnsley will be excitedly receiving their exam results.

After months of waiting, the students will finally get to see their hard work pay off.

Whilst yesterday was A-Level results day, next Thursday will see GCSE students receive their grades, and I want to congratulate them all.

We’re lucky to have some fantastic young people here in Barnsley, and I hope each and every one of them gets the results they need for whatever route they choose to take.

But as much as this time of year is often one of relief, happiness, or celebration, it also reminds me of the obstacles they’ll face as they take these next steps.

Because, to put it bluntly, these students will find it more difficult to get on in life compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

The Social Mobility Foundation, for instance, has identified that Barnsley sits in the bottom 10% of areas in the country on the social mobility index.

Essentially, this means that people here aren’t afforded the same life chances as people born elsewhere.

When it comes to going on to university, for example, just 10 per cent of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will go on to study there, compared to 50 per cent of children from similar backgrounds in some areas of London.

This just isn’t fair.

Why should young people born here have less of a chance of succeeding in life, just because of the postcode they were born in?

There’s a number of reasons for this, from an economy that has left Barnsley behind, low-wage and insecure work that has trapped people in poverty, to a family of schools that have been historically underfunded.

But ultimately, every person here in Barnsley should have the same opportunities as those born elsewhere.

So whilst students are excitedly finding out their grades this week, I’ll continue demanding urgent action from the Government until every young person here in Barnsley has a proper opportunity to aspire, achieve, and succeed in life.