My column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st September addressed the problem of a lack of social mobility in Barnsley.
It’s around this time of year that many students receive their GCSE and A-Level exam results – usually after a summer of pretending that not to be the case.
As envelopes from exam boards are opened in schools across Barnsley, these results can often provide the platform for the next stage of so many young adults’ lives.
Whether the next step is going to college, undertaking an apprenticeship, heading to university or starting work, it’s a hugely significant moment.
But unfortunately, simply by virtue of where you are born, it’s possible that these results may be less significant than another student’s elsewhere in the UK.
Too often, too many people are prevented from doing their best and realising their full potential, and can’t progress in life no matter how hard they work.
Of the students finding out their A-Level results in Barnsley, only 9 per cent of those from poorer households will go on to university.
When you compare this to the 19 per cent of those from poorer backgrounds across Yorkshire who go on to university, and 41 per cent in London, you begin to see the problem.
More widely, in the Government’s own 2016 Social Mobility Index 72 per cent of the UK’s social mobility ‘hotspots’ – where young people have the best chance of getting on in life – were in the South.
There was not a single hotspot in Yorkshire.
On the contrary, a third of our region was made up of social mobility ‘coldspots’ – where young people have the least chance of advancing in life – and Barnsley was the 25th worst area in the country.
To put it simply: people in Barnsley are not afforded the same opportunities and chances to do well in life that others are, and this has to change.
We need a true cradle-to-grave education system that doesn’t leave anybody behind, and gives everybody the chance at training and education throughout their life; proper funding for ruthlessly-cut further education options; and accessible and affordable higher education.
Whichever path those receiving their results in Barnsley this summer choose to take, they should have just as much chance of succeeding along it as anybody else."