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Former education secretary hopes pledge on social mobility will help tackle county lines drug dealing

PUBLISHED: 19:14 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 19:14 18 September 2018

Former education secretary Justine Greening and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Former education secretary Justine Greening and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Geraldine Scott

Former education secretary Justine Greening visited Norwich today to promote a scheme which encourages employers to take on staff from a wider range of backgrounds.

The Social Mobility Pledge launched in March and has already attracted support from many large companies, with Norwich insurance firm Aviva joining as a founder member.

The idea is companies pledge to partner with schools and colleges, provide access to apprenticeships and work experience, and use inclusive approaches to recruitment.

And Ms Greening said she hoped it would develop work under the Opportunity Area initiative she launched as a minister, which aimed to help young people from deprived background a better start in life.

Norwich was one of 12 areas identified by Ms Greening as a opportunity area in 2016.

Justine Greening MP talks to students at the Hewett Academy, Norwich about the Social Mobility Pledge. Photo: Inspiration TrustJustine Greening MP talks to students at the Hewett Academy, Norwich about the Social Mobility Pledge. Photo: Inspiration Trust

Ms Greening said: “What we really want to do is not just the Opportunity Area work in Norwich within schools but also really connect up young people here to opportunities on their doorstep.”

Ms Greening spoke to pupils at the Hewett Academy and visited mental health charity Mind in the city as part of a nationwide tour.

Speaking to students at the school Ms Greening explained how the pledge could benefit them, and about how her own career aspirations had varied widely.

She said: “When I was young I had a job working in the Morrisons cafe in Rotherham and because I spilt tea on customers and wasn’t very good I discounted retail as a career, but actually I could have pursued a different aspect doing marketing or finance in retail.

“At one point I was interested in the police, and then I thought about jobs where I could earn lots of money. I ended up doing economics as a third A Level as I wasn’t very good at physics, and found it something I enjoyed and was really good at, and my career went on from there.”

During the visit she heard from students about their views on work experience and career planning.

Asked whether Norfolk County Council’s proposal to close 46 of 53 children’s centres in the county ran counter to those aims, Ms Greening said: “I do think it’s important that in the end what we always look at is the people and the outcomes and I recognise there’s sometimes a difference between that and the bricks and mortar.

“But it is important that all of these sorts of changes support the rest of the work that’s happening in Norwich around connecting up young people with opportunity and helping to support local schools.”

She also hoped the social mobility pledge would help children leaving care. It was reported today how young people leaving care in London were being targeted by drugs gangs before being sent to deal in Norfolk.

Ms Greening said: “I hope [the pledge] can help it, clearly that’s a really acute case of young people locked out of opportunity trying to find the wrong route to make their way in life. I’m a London MP so from my local community this is also a massive problem I think what we need to start understanding is investment in opportunities for young people is how you actually create a better path for all of us, but especially these young people.

“We know that young people who are coming out of care are the most likely to run up into these sorts of problems and that’s why one of the final things I was doing as Secretary of State for Education was trying to improve the support that we give to those young people so that they’ve got every bit as much talent as any other young person growing up in our country and we need to make sure the system doesn’t lock them out.”

She added: “I want to see every single young person in Norwich coming out of the education system and schools here with a fantastic start educationally. I want to see them having hopefully had enough work experience and a sense of the opportunities right here and around them to start to be thinking about the careers they want to get.

“And I want them to have the chance to really go for those careers and not be screened out of them purely because they don’t know the right person who knows the right person in the companies they’re interested in working in.

“I want equality of opportunity I think that’s the only way to make sure we unleash the talents of fantastic young people like the ones here in Norwich.”

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