Why Norfolk's lack of social mobility is no shock to me
PUBLISHED: 11:55 29 November 2017
Norfolk's poor showing in a social mobility survey came as no surprise to Andrew Fitchett.
Most people my age (34) who grew up in Norfolk will not have been surprised by this week’s news that the county is among the worst in the country for social mobility.
Out of 324 local authorities, six of ours are among the worst 65 in the country. Breckland - where I grew up - was at number 300.
In my case, I went to a bad school, in a town short on inspiration, initiative and opportunity.
In fact, one of my well-worn, woe-is-me, examples of how grim and tough my childhood was, is that more people from my year at school have been to prison than university.
In reality, my childhood was great. While the town was boring and mired in a state of inertia, it was also safe, surrounded in beautiful countryside and I was from a stable, loving family.
The biggest problem, ultimately, was having little to aspire to, and nobody to inspire us.
Growing up, I was aware of high-flying jobs (I spent a long time wanting to be a lawyer because I heard you got paid a lot) but I didn’t know a single person who did one, or really have much of an idea of how to get there.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of the college/university route, but I had no idea how to navigate that world, and absolutely no confidence in doing it on my own. And I was a bright student - if a little lazy and too chatty.
It was only when I went to university under my own steam several years after leaving school that I began to realise my own abilities, and how badly I had been let down.
When I think back, I’m angry at my teachers and the system. If I had been shown the possibilities of what I could achieve, and pushed to reach them, it would be on me.
But the fact that I didn’t even realise what I’d missed out on until years later was evidence that I’d never been shown the examples that could have inspired me.
My old school is now an academy, and the students are pushed much harder, and told they can achieve anything - including being given the opportunity to apply to Oxbridge universities.
It is a step in the right direction. But it is not the only thing that needs to change.
Many towns - including the one I grew up in - need more prestigious and skilled jobs, and the infrastructure to support new, innovative businesses.
While that remains unchanged, children can only be inspired to achieve, not to stay. Ultimately, they will have to escape.