‘Call to action’ as report shows town’s poorer children have fewer chances in life

Peter Lamb
Peter Lamb

Crawley children from poorer families have less chance of getting ahead in life than any in the south east, according to a new report.

The government’s Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has published State of the Nation 2017, which examined the life chances of people born into a disadvantaged background.

The report focussed on education, employment and the likelihood of some one owning their own home.

Out of the 324 local authority areas in England, Crawley came 304th – the lowest in the south east – placing it among the 65 ‘coldspots’ which offer the worst opportunities for social progress.

Councillor Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council said the report was a “call to action”, adding: “It is totally unacceptable that in modern Britain, the success of Crawley’s children is determined by their parents’ income.”

Looking at education, Crawley performed well in the Early Years, placing just shy of the top third when it came to ensuring disadvantaged children were ready for school – and joint-21st for the percentage of nursery providers rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted.

It was a different story at primary and secondary level, with the likelihood of those children progressing well plummeting to 318th. The report found the chances of a disadvantaged Crawley child attending a high-rated primary school was the lowest in the country. That figure was much higher for secondary school but still within the ‘coldspot’ range.

Only 27 per cent of disadvantaged youngsters reached the expected standard at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6), compared to 47 per cent of their peers.

At secondary level, the average Attainment 8 score – judging a child’s performance across eight subjects by Year 11 – was 47.4, compared to 48.7 for their peers and 48.5 nationally.

The SMC noted that London took up many of the high social mobility ‘hotspots’, which was credited in part to higher school funding and investment.

Mr Lamb said he had called for an “urgent meeting” with West Sussex County Council “to see what steps they plan to take to correct this failure”.

In addition he asked the chair of Crawley’s overview and scrutiny commission, Councillor Brenda Smith, to begin an investigation into social mobility in the borough and “the practical steps which are now necessary to ensure every child has a fair chance in life”.

A county council spokesman said the results of the SMC’s study were “concerning”.

He added: “In the last few years we have worked hard to develop the support we offer our families and our new early help service tackles families’ problems before they become more serious.

“This has been a success and hopefully this will show a shift in social mobility in the years ahead.

“School funding is also a key issue for us and we have been consistently calling for fairer funding for our schools by working with our MPs and headteachers over the last couple of years.

“Funding could be considered a factor, however, we need to continue working with our district and borough councils to develop effective improvement plans to tackle social mobility.”

The spokesman added: “We will be looking at the report in more detail to come up with the best way forward.”