North East ‘most pessimistic’ about future prospects

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People in the North East of England are the most pessimistic about their futures, with less a third of people in the region stating there are good opportunities to progress in life.

This is according to the Social Mobility Commission’s annual Social Mobility Barometer, which asked 5,000 people what they felt about the career and education opportunities and living standards in their region.

The 2019-20 barometer reveals stark regional and generational differences in attitudes to social mobility. The greatest difference was seen between people in the North East and the capital – only 31% of respondents in the North East felt there were enough opportunities for them, compared with 78% in London.

Younger generations felt more acutely that an individual’s background shapes their future – for 18- to 24-year-olds just three in 10 felt everyone in Britain has a fair chance to succeed in life, compared with almost half (48%) of people aged 65 and over.

Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “This poll is a ‘call to action’ for this government to do more to help social mobility. Politicians at national and local level must listen to it. Regions which have been marginalised for decades should get the investment they need to provide opportunities for young people so they don’t have to move out to move up.”

She felt more attention needed to be given to improving training opportunities, jobs and pay across the country.

The majority of respondents agreed that having a “better” education did not translate into increased job security or better living standards. Although 63% of all respondents felt they had a better education than their parents, only 45% said they had a better standard of living and just 29% felt their job prospects were more secure.

Younger people continued to feel that higher education offered the best career opportunities. Thirty-five per cent of 18 to 24 year olds believed a university education was best, compared with just 18% who said the same for apprenticeships.

However, across all respondents, apprenticeships were seen as the more favourable education option for career progress – 32% agreed they offered the best opportunities for young people, followed by higher education (26%) and further education (14%).

The Social Mobility Commission recommended that an independent “What Works Centre for Further Education and Adult Learning” is created. It said the centre should consider the most successful approaches to transforming adult learning; how to increase levels of participation in further education and how education could improve social mobility.

Fay Sadro, head of evidence at independent policy and research organisation the Learning and Work Institute said: “Against the backdrop of continued funding pressures on further education and adult learning, there is an urgent need to share knowledge across the sector, improve judgments about investments through the use of evidence and support an increase in research and experimentation.”

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