State of the nation uncovers the truth of social mobility

Report highlights the stark social mobility postcode lottery that exists in Britain

A stark social mobility postcode lottery exists in Britain today where the chances of someone from a disadvantaged background succeeding in life is bound to where they live, the Social Mobility Commission’s State of the nation report has found.

The report uncovers a striking geographical divide with London and its surrounding areas pulling away from the rest of the country, while many other parts of the country are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.

It warns that Britain is in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division and calls on government to increase its proportion of spending on those parts of the country that most need it. Estimates suggest that the North is £6bn a year underfunded compared to London.

At the heart of the report is the Social Mobility Index, which ranks all 324 local authorities in England in terms of their social mobility prospects for someone from a disadvantaged background. It uses a range of 16 indicators for every major life stage, from early years through to working lives, to map the nation’s social mobility hotspots and coldspots. A similar, but not comparable, approach has been taken for Scotland and Wales.

The report debunks the assumption that a simple north-south divide exists. Instead, it suggests there is a postcode lottery with hotspots and coldspots found in almost every part of the country. London dominates the hotspots, while the East and West Midlands are the worst performing regions. The best performing local authority area is Westminster and the worst performing area is West Somerset.

Commenting on the report, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, of the National Education Union said, “The latest Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report reveals the government’s abject failure in tackling the root causes of poverty and inequality and in offering hope to communities across the country. The gap between the better off and the least well off is growing and Britain is an increasingly unequal and unfair society.

‘The widening gap is the product of a failed approach to economic development and the incredibly short-sighted programme of austerity which has cut vital public services, including education budgets across the country.

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‘Teachers do everything they can to help every child but they, and the children, are let down by the governments failure to tackle inequality and childhood  poverty.

‘That we have four million children living in poverty is an absolute disgrace in the world’s fourth richest economy. If the government was serious about improving children’s life chances it would have invested in early years rather than cutting Sure Start and funding for childcare; it would have increased school funding and local authority budgets for school support services not slashed them and it would have addressed the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis.  It would also have taken serious steps to develop a strategy for creating good quality jobs for young people through investment.

‘The crisis in teacher supply has fundamental causes that will not be addressed by giving more responsibility to Regional Schools Commissioners, as the report suggests. The root causes of the crisis in retention and recruitment are clear: uncompetitive pay and unsustainable workload and accountability pressures.”

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