It has been revealed that Suffolk Coastal is ranked as one of the worst areas for social mobility in England.
According to the House of Commons Social Mobility Index by Constituency (SMIC), Suffolk Coastal ranks 528 out of the 533 constituencies in England, a situation that ‘exposes the inequality of opportunity in Suffolk’, according to the Labour Group at Suffolk County Council.
Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for education, says that, whilst Suffolk Coastal is famous for picturesque towns like Aldeburgh, Southwold and Woodbridge, its reputation had masked the lack of opportunities for children and young people coming from a disadvantaged background.
“Suffolk Coastal can rightly be proud of a beautiful coast line and charming countryside, but the SMIC exposes the fact that people from a disadvantaged background will have far fewer prospects available to them.”
Cllr Abbott says that issue is shared across Suffolk, with all but one constituency in the county ranking in the bottom half of the SMIC and three out of the seven lying in the bottom 20%.
“This problem isn’t confined to Suffolk Coastal. There is a huge issue with social mobility right across Suffolk, not least because many children from disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to access the best schools in our county.
“In Ipswich, for example, just 50% of children eligible for a Free School Meal (FSM) attends a primary school rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ compared to the national average of 83%. This number drops to just 40% for secondary education. The picture is similar in Waveney and needs vast improvement right across Suffolk too.
“It is also important to note that Suffolk has the highest rate of fixed term exclusions for primary school pupils eligible for Free School Meals in the country – 10.03%, a figure rising to 21.9% in our secondary schools. These children are five times more likely to be excluded than their peers and the damage this will have on their educational outcomes is immense.
“Other factors that can compound this situation include; a lack a quality nursery provision; a dearth of positive destinations after GCSEs and an absence of meaningful employment as a young people move into adulthood.
“It is clear that, until we deliver a quality education system that is universally accessible to all children in Suffolk, irrespective of their background, we cannot hope to improve outcomes for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“But it is important to remember that a good quality education can only form part of the solution. The transition into adulthood is also critical – wages have to increase to help manage rising living costs and there needs to be a commitment to create and attract high skilled, high wage jobs. The building of affordable housing is also critical to ensure that young people who wish to continue living in Suffolk can do so without a heavy financial burden.”