February 28, 2019 @ 13:37 by Richard Dawson
The challenges facing disadvantaged youths in the North East were highlighted by academics, government officials and school chiefs at a meeting in Newcastle this week (Tuesday 26 February), hosted by the Social Mobility Commission.
The roundtable discussion, co-hosted by Schools North East, shared the latest developments on social mobility in the North East and school performance in the region. It also started coordinating a long-term strategy to tackle social mobility.
Whilst schools in the North East get some of the best results in the country for disadvantaged primary school children, they lag behind in league tables in secondary education.
The event at Newcastle University was part of a two-day visit by the Social Mobility Commission to look at local schools and charity initiatives. It was the Commission’s first board meeting in the North underlining its intention to involve the regions in its work.
“I am pleased that one of our first Commission meetings is in Newcastle,” said Dame Martina Milburn, Commission chair. “As we pull together our strategy and decide our areas of focus, I am keen to learn where more needs to be done and hope this important round table will help inform our work.”
The trip included a visit to Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, where commissioners met a group of sixth formers, and visited a National Citizens Service project at St James Park, Newcastle.
“The North East has huge talent and potential, but has suffered from some of the worst impacts of de-industrialisation in the country,” said Sammy Wright, vice-principal of Southmoor Academy and one of the 12 commissioners.
“This has left people with a huge degree of pessimism about their life chances. Looking at some of the long-term deprivation in our communities, and the educational underachievement that results, it is not surprising they feel this way. But by convening key leaders across all sectors we intend to develop a plan to change this.”
The pessimistic outlook of people living in the North East is highlighted in the Social Mobility Barometer 2018, published by the Commission.
Some 57 per cent of people who moved away from the North East think that they would not have been as successful had they stayed in the region. Just 7 per cent of those that stayed in the North East think they would have fared worse if they moved out of the area.
The barometer also shows that five out of six people (83 per cent) think there is a large gap between social classes in Britain, a higher percentage than in any other area.
The roundtable discussion brought together key people and organisations from across the region to coordinate efforts to tackle social mobility.