Help for poor children to be successful

Thousands of young people in East Anglia could be helped by plans to help the poorest youngsters to succeed.

Thousands of young people in East Anglia could be helped by plans to help the poorest youngsters to succeed.

The proposals to increase social mobility were welcomed in Norfolk, where GCSE and A-level results are below the national average and where teenagers are less likely to go to university than the rest of the country.

Former Cabinet minister David Blunkett today launched his pamphlet suggesting that top-rate taxpayers who are parents of 16 to19-year-olds should pay tax on their child benefit to fund mentoring for the poorest children.

Rosalie Monbiot, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “What he is saying is very much the message for Norfolk's children. One of the main planks of our plan for the county is to raise achievement.

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“Norfolk does have a problem with low achievement and we have been below national levels at GCSE and A-level. It comes from a bedrock of low expectations and low outlook. But now if you ask young people about their aspirations they are as high as anywhere else in the country and we need to help them achieve that.”

She added that new figures, yet to be published, for young people in Norfolk who are not in education, work or training had dropped “massively” and are now better than the national average.

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Lorraine Sturman, manager of Aim Higher Norfolk, which encourages young people to go to university, said: “There is a recognised view that young people in Norfolk have a low idea of what they will achieve. Research has been done asking them what they would like to be and then what they think they will be and there is quite a mismatch between the two. Also Norfolk is a nice place to live, and that is one reason why young people don't want to leave Norfolk.

“It is about making them feel that they will go on to succeed and making them aware of the opportunities there are in Norfolk. All our further education colleges now offer higher education, and there is a really good range of education here in Norfolk.”

The latest figures for 2006 show that 30pc of Norfolk teenagers go on to university, compared with 42pc nationally.

In the pamphlet, called The Inclusive Society? Social Mobility In 21st Century Britain, published by New Labour thinktank Progress, Mr Blunkett also suggests:

t A “dramatic” expansion of the Child Trust Fund with cash handed out at key points in life such as further or higher education, buying a home or starting to save for a pension;

t An American-style secondary school graduation ceremony;

t A scheme allowing housing benefit to be used to buy part ownership of a home, in return for committing to being a good tenant and to support children at school;

t A duty for employers to provide five days of training a year.

Mrs Sturman welcomed the mentoring proposal, and said a school graduation ceremony would be a good idea, especially if it promoted the importance of qualifications. She said it was important to involve parents and families in raising expectations rather than just working through schools.

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