Disadvantaged Norfolk children have poorer life chances, discovers local MP

North Norfolk shows stark difference between top early childhood progress and disappointing results for young people. MP for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb, calls for Social Mobility Summit for Norfolk.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have a poorer chance of doing well as an adult compared to the national average in Norfolk, a local MP has found.

Norman Lamb MP uncovered social mobility data released as part of the SMIC (Social Mobility Index by constituency). The index ranks each of the 533 constituencies in England according to how good the life chances are that they provide disadvantaged children.

Just one constituency out of Norfolk’s nine makes the top half of performers – and only just (South Norfolk, ranking at 238th best in the country). Meanwhile, 4 of Norfolk’s 9 constituencies are in the bottom 20% in the country for social mobility.

The SMIC also provides a social mobility index based on each life stage: Early Years, School, Youth and Adult. Each stage measures how good life chances are for disadvantaged children at that stage of life.

Norman Lamb’s own constituency, North Norfolk, was strikingly ranked in the top 15% of performers for School stage, and in the bottom 15% for Youth stage. Only a handful of other constituencies in England performed in a similar way.

Mr Lamb, who labelled the data “both fascinating and disturbing”, has written to the Secretary of State for Education and the head of Norfolk County Council, asking whether they were aware of the divergent figures and how they intend to solve them.

He pointed to the Norwich Opportunity Area, a Government-funded scheme, as a source from which best practice could be gathered and subsequently applied to the whole of Norfolk. However, Mr Lamb warned that the Opportunity Area schemes “are hampered by their two-year time limit, which is not enough to overcome the extended causes of the lack of social mobility.”

He has called for a Social Mobility Summit in Norfolk to discuss how we can develop a strategy to ensure that Norfolk becomes a leading county for opportunity for children and young people.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“These figures are both fascinating and disturbing. It’s remarkable to think that my own constituency, North Norfolk, performs so well at giving disadvantaged children good chances at School, yet lets down disadvantaged young people.

More broadly, it’s concerning to find out that Norfolk constituencies perform so poorly on social mobility rankings.

We should fight for equality of opportunity – the chance for anyone from any background to have a fair chance on a level playing field. Norfolk’s poor social mobility performance means we’re denying some of the most disadvantaged children crucial chances to make the best shot at their lives.

This is not only unfair but we also have to make the most of our human capital as a county. If we want Norfolk to thrive in the future we have to make sure that all our children have the opportunity to make the most of their talents.

I am aware of the possibilities offered by the Norwich Opportunity Area programme, and am keen to learn from the experience of those involved in co-producing the scheme. However our vision for Norfolk must be more radical than Opportunity Areas. They are hampered by their two-year time limit, which is not enough to overcome the extended causes of the lack of social mobility.

I am calling for a Social Mobility Summit in Norfolk. I want to bring together key leaders in Norfolk to discuss how we can build a strategy to get Norfolk to the top of the league table for opportunity.”

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