Social mobility in Shropshire is in free fall – we are failing young people

It is not a surprise that the remaining members of the government’s Social Mobility Commission have resigned this weekend.[1] Anger has been growing for months that the government has been distracted from improving individual lives by the demands of Brexit.

Shropshire is one of the worst areas in England for young people to get out of the trap of struggling households and poor education. Last week, the county was ranked the 237th worst out of 324 local authorities for social mobility.[2] Just a year before, we were at rank 185. We have skidded downwards.

Social mobility is important. When it works, people from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds get on in life, gaining the education and skills they need and getting better paid jobs. But the latest data show that Shropshire is going backwards in the social mobility stakes.

The Social Mobility Commission, which compiles the data, has made it clear that the biggest problem that Shropshire faces is that it is failing to support young people. Our county now is almost at the bottom of the league table for youth in the social mobility rankings. We are ranked at position 292 out of the 324 English local authorities. That’s utterly dismal.

Young people living in poorer households are in our county failing to get access to further and higher education. Many of them are scared stiff by the lack of financial support and the loans needed to pay for their education. The paucity of higher education facilities in our county creates an environment where it is incredibly hard to inspire youngsters to go on to the future innovators and entrepreneurs.

It is shocking that just 1% of poorer young people in Shropshire go on to higher education.[3] Compare that to London, where the average for the age group is around 10%. Across England, the average is 5%. Hear clearly, we are so badly behind we are failing young people in our county.

It isn’t right that young people growing up in more disadvantaged backgrounds in Shropshire don’t get as many chances to improve their life chances as those as other areas. We must do more to support their interests. That will not only good for young people. It could also give a huge boost our local economy.

Social mobility ranking for ShropshireNotes

[1]. Reports on resignations: BBC, The Times, The Times, Guardian.

[2]. 2017 data. 2016 data. BBC interactive.

[3]. In this context, poverty is defined as children eligible for free school males. The latest data from the commission is for 2014/15.

Measures to support schools, reduce energy use and calm traffic rejected by Shropshire Council 

A full council meeting took place today. The biggest item on the agenda was the council’s financial strategy through to 2020. An attempt by Lib Dem councillors to deliver more support for schools, reduce the energy used by streetlights and provide more funds for traffic calming was rejected by the Conservative majority.

I am sorry that this amendment to council’s financial strategy did not go through. It would have helped schoolchildren, communities and the environment.

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Shropshire and Ludlow are lagging on higher education – 200 young people a year miss out

I see in the Ludlow Advertiser Philip Dunne is welcoming the increase in young people applying to go university. He fails to mention that his own constituency is performing worse than much of England. Ludlow used to be ahead of the game but is now trailing behind.

The data released by UCAS earlier this month are really quite shocking. All of Shropshire is falling behind the rest of England in university admissions. We would have more than 200 extra students applying to go to university every year if we achieved the national average.

Ludlow slides down higher education league tables

When Philip Dunne was elected as our MP ten years ago, just 181 of the 533 constituencies in England had a higher rate of university applications than Ludlow. In 2016, 301 constituencies do better than Ludlow. That’s not a good track record.

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Ludlow Teme education centre proposed by Severn Rivers Trust – it looks a great idea

There’s a plan to build a new education centre on the Teme at Dinham. It’s really exciting.

When I first heard of these plans, I wasn’t certain how this scheme would work. We don’t have much space available at Dinham and, instinctively, it is not a place to be putting up more buildings. After meeting Mike Morris, deputy director of the Severn Rivers Trust on site last week, I am thrilled by the idea. This could be a new tourist attraction as well as an education centre.

The idea is to build an education centre on the west bank of the Teme near Dinham weir. This site is currently an unmanaged field. It has a degree of biodiversity but is otherwise rough vegetation.

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Ludlow library is to be reviewed – I think the right plan for its future is absolutely obvious

Very shortly, Shropshire Council will launch a review of the six hub libraries – Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Bridgnorth and Ludlow. I’ll write more about the review when I know more. But I do have a firm view on what the result of any review should be.

We know we will have to work hard to sort out a future for the hub libraries in a time of local government austerity. But I don’t think it helps that we set to spend time looking at transferring these libraries to communities or local councils. The six hub libraries provide an integrated service that can’t easily be split up. I cannot see how we can retain that with more than one hub provider, not without creating a lot of bureaucracy to oversee any future arrangement.

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