MP blames lack of funding for county’s social mobility issues

Ipswich can sometimes appear prosperous - but there are problems with social mobility in in the town

Ipswich can sometimes appear prosperous - but there are problems with social mobility in in the town. Picture: NIGEL BROWN - Credit: Archant

Government under-funding of schools in Suffolk is one of the key reasons that social mobility in parts of the county is below the national average.

Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

That’s the view of Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin following a national report into how difficult it is for young people from different parts of the country to improve their life chances.

The report from the Social Mobility Commission showed that young people in London boroughs, both those that are comparatively wealthy and those normally thought of as deprived, have better life chances than those living in other parts of England.

The Commission is backed by the government – but is chaired by former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn.

The report said Britain is in a “spiral of division”, with London providing greater opportunities for the disadvantaged than coastal, rural and former industrial areas.

Young people in “left-behind” communities face lower rates of pay, fewer top jobs and commuting times nearly four times longer than those in cities.

Mr Milburn said: “The country seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division. That takes a spatial form, not just a social one. There is a stark social mobility lottery in Britain today. London and its hinterland are increasingly looking like a different country from the rest of Britain.”

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Mr Martin said the lack of government investment in education in counties like Suffolk was causing problems for those who were already deprived: “There is a direct link between amount we pay for children’s education and their eventual success or otherwise in life. All the London boroughs are near the top of the table – and they all get better funding for schools than other parts of the country. The government needs to understand that.”

County council cabinet member Gordon Jones said: “The low level of funding we are seeing in Suffolk is a legacy of national funding decisions made by governments a decade ago and Suffolk’s underfunding has become entrenched.

“The underfunding of Suffolk schools has been consistently challenged at a national level by Suffolk County Council throughout its current administration and as an active member of the f40 group (the 40 lowest funded councils in England for schools), I have tirelessly campaigned with ministers and MPs on a National and local level for fairer funding for Suffolk pupils.

“Despite consistent low funding, we are thrilled with the progress Suffolk has made through our Raising the Bar programme since 2012. The number of schools being judged ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted has risen by more than 20% in the last five years to 88%.

“Ipswich has been identified by the government as an opportunity area and we are excited about the opportunities this will bring for social mobility in the town and the county.

“There is still more to be done and I will continue to campaign for fairer funding to ensure that our children and young people are given the best opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal districts are in the top half of the “league table” of 324 English districts – the other five Suffolk districts and boroughs are all in the bottom half of the table.