Northumberland is 'not good place for disadvantaged children to grow up'

Achievement levels among Northumberland's disadvantaged children are low. Picture: Shutterstock
Achievement levels among Northumberland's disadvantaged children are low. Picture: Shutterstock

Disadvantaged children face some of the worst prospects growing up in Northumberland compared with the rest of England, shocking new research has revealed.

The Social Mobility Commission's latest report into inequality in Britain found Northumberland is in the bottom quarter of England's 324 local authorities for social mobility.

They were ranked to assess the life chances of youngsters from deprived backgrounds, which the commission defines as those on free school meals.

The watchdog analysed children from nursery right up to university, and found there is huge variation in prospects for babies born into disadvantaged families depending on where they grow up.

In Northumberland, just 46% of five-year-olds eligible for free school meals achieve 'a good level of development' by the time they are ready to start primary school, compared with 69% in the south London borough of Lewisham.

And only 32% go on to achieve the expected level in reading, writing and maths by age 11. Out of the youngsters eligible for free school meals, 33% go to a secondary school with a good or outstanding Ofsted rating, significantly below the England average of 73%.

For those youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds who finish school at 18, 26% achieved two or more A-levels, or equivalent qualifications, and just 13% go to university.

And the struggle that some of these children had at the start of their lives can impact them later on.

At least one in every six children who was eligible for free school meals is not in education, employment or training by the age of 17.

According to the commission's social mobility index Northumberland was ranked number 288 out of England's 324 local authorities, with Westminster coming top.

The report found that the worst performing areas for social mobility are no longer inner city areas, but remote rural and coastal areas, and former industrial areas.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds living in these areas face far higher barriers than young people growing up in cities and their surrounding areas.

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