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Social-mobility ‘cold spots’ are likely to drop further behind

YOUNG people from poor areas have less chance of a university education than those from affluent areas, a problem that creates social mobility “cold spots,” according to a new parliamentary report.

These areas are likely to fall even further behind the rest of the country, with fewer opportunities for those living there, leading to serious economic repercussions.

The report by the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility found that school leavers’ chances of getting into university vary significantly according to where they live.

It also says that the gap in school exam results between pupils from different social backgrounds is contributing to increasingly “deep social divisions” in British education.

The University and College Union responded by calling for more government investment in helping young people from working-class areas to enter university education.

Head of policy Matt Waddup said: “Those with the greatest access to qualifications tend to be healthier, wealthier and more active citizens. Yet, as this report shows, where you live largely determines your chances of educational success.”

The parliamentary report calls for more co-operation between schools, local authorities and universities to target disadvantaged children.

It demands guaranteed funding for education in poor areas and for universities to increase “outreach” work to narrow the widening gap between intakes of students from rich and poor areas.

Mr Waddup said: “The committee is right to call on universities to evaluate their outreach work and to target it in areas with the lowest social mobility. We agree that local authorities should receive extra funds in cold spot areas to tackle the current postcode lottery of educational success.

“What we really need is proper investment across the board in areas that have the lowest access to education and the opportunities it provides. Further education colleges must be given proper resources to deliver the education that is so vital in those areas ignored by politicians for too long.”

Poorer pupils in London perform about the same as the average student nationally, while disadvantaged pupils in the north-east have the lowest scores, and the south-east and south-west both perform poorly for their disadvantaged pupils.

Despite its proximity to the capital, the south-east has an attainment gap twice the size of inner London. 

Labour MP Justin Madders, who chairs the parliamentary group, said: “Social background and geography are still huge influences on educational success and it will require a combination of big-picture thinking and local understanding to change that.”

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