Unqualified and Unemployed: The state of modern Britain.

Analysis published this week by the University and College Union (UCU) has revealed the presence of stark differences in both local and regional educational achievement in the UK.

The UCU claim that these statistics illustrate ‘two Britains’, separated by a damaging educational divide. A quick glance at the graphic above seems to consolidate this view. In fact, while many local variations exist in educational attainment, certain generalisations can be established.

For instance, England is a comparatively more qualified nation than either Scotland or Wales and London and the South are evidently better qualified than many areas of the Midlands or the North.

Putting generalisations aside, regardless of the fact that many of Britain’s most educated workforces can be found in London (98%+ of residents in Brent North have a qualification), the UCU stated that London was a ‘city full of contrasts’. A fact perhaps best illustrated by the analysis’ observation that Hackney South has around twice as many unqualified residents as Hackney North.

Adding to this, many of the lowest-achieving constituencies in London can be found in the east of the capital. Notably, Barking, Ilford South, Romford, Hornchurch, Walthamstow, West Ham and East Ham are amongst the least qualified areas of London. Undoubtedly, this shows the importance of ensuring these communities have better access to high quality education and enforces the necessity of eradicating the constituency lottery that seems to be placing nonsensical limitations on the future success of many individuals.

But, arguably the main story from these findings emerges from the West Midlands. In a week when the West Midlands has already been identified as the region that has suffered the greatest increase in unemployment during the recession (See ONS link below), the analysis published by the UCU shows that the West Midlands is also the least educated area of Britain.

According to the statistics, an astonishing 25 out of 28 constituencies in the West Midlands have an above average number of individuals without qualifications. The situation in Birmingham Hodge Hill (Only second to Glasgow North East nationally) is particularly glum, with 33.3% of residents being without a single qualification. Beyond this, the West Midlands is also home to 8 of the top 20 least qualified constituencies. This coupled with the 6.1% increase in unemployment during the recession, undeniably signals bleak times for people from this part of the country.

As UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, “Educational achievement is well below the national average in the vast majority of the West Midlands, which should deeply concern all of us. There is a real danger that children growing up in places where it is not unheard of to have no qualifications will have their ambition blunted and never realise their full potential.”

Indeed, it is difficult to suggest that children growing up in these environments are being aided enough (Or in any way) in terms of social mobility. This is despite the country still being relatively fresh from around 13 years of Labour governance, and with a Coalition government regrettably increasing tuition fees and scrapping education maintenance allowance (EMA) it only appears to be getting harder for individuals from less fortunate backgrounds.

In fact, the scope of this barrier to success is one that is being regularly highlighted in both national and international findings. Only last month did a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) place the UK 28th out of 35 leading world economies in terms of the likelihood of a child overcoming a tough start. (See BBC link below)

This alone should serve as enough of a warning that the issue of social mobility needs to be addressed. However, the frankly laughable notion that this Government cares about social mobility is one that threatens to worsen the socio-economic unfairness that seems destined to forever blight this nation.

Quite simply more must be done to ensure that children from poor backgrounds are not forgotten by our society. If their plight continues to be ignored then in the face of a poor economy these problems will continue to be exacerbated by irresponsible governance and age-old classism.

For more on unemployment statistics – Office for National Statistics, 2011, http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=397

For more on the OECD report- Coughlan, S, 2011- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13794591

Kenneth Way.

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