‘Like giving back the keys to the people who crashed the car’ - Norwich MP Clive Lewis slams government’s social mobility scheme

Norwich South
MP Clive Lewis.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A scheme hailed by the government as a way to give children a better start at school so they can go further in life has been slammed by a Norwich MP.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis attacked government claims over how Norwich would benefit from being chosen as an opportunity area.

The city was given that status after it came 323rd out of 324 districts for social mobility - a measure of how someone improves their life chances.

And this week. the government said the scheme has £6m of funding attached, which would help to:

• Cut the rate of permanent and fixed exclusions by two thirds

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• Get 40pc of young people in Norwich into higher education or a higher level apprenticeship

• Halve the attainment gap between disadvantaged and all pupils

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• Put attainment at key stages two and four into the top half of all local authorities

Penny Carpenter, children's services committee chairman at Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council, welcomed the scheme and said it offered the 'added impetus and investment' to drive up aspirations and skills.

But Labour MP Mr Lewis said the 'extra' money would be lost elsewhere.

He said: 'Research from the National Education Union shows, even after the Tories' national schools funding formula changes, the government is cutting a total of £6m off the Norwich schools budget in real terms over the next three years.

'Opportunity areas in no way make up for the tsunami of Tory cuts to the services and benefits that our city's most disadvantaged young people and families rely on.

'Giving the Tories and the local opportunity area board responsibility for reducing disadvantage is like giving back the keys to the people who crashed the car.

'The Norwich opportunity area board says it will support children at risk of exclusion from school. But the chair of the board [Tim Coulson} was also the local regional schools commissioner in charge during an explosion in the number of children excluded from academies.

'Even consultants hired by the government to evaluate the success of opportunity areas say the programme is unlikely to meet the government's own targets for increasing mobility.'

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