Susie Fowler-Watt

Susie looks at the hot is­sue of so­cial mo­bil­ity

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

Top­i­cal re­flec­tion from Susie on so­cial mo­bil­ity

WE all know we live in a beau­ti­ful part of the world, but for some it is more beau­ti­ful than oth­ers. How­ever lovely Nor­folk may be, a sub­stan­tial part of the county comes very low on the league ta­ble for so­cial mo­bil­ity.

What does that mean? That’s a ques­tion we strug­gle with ev­ery time we re­port on the is­sue at Look

East. Of­fi­cially, it’s a per­son’s abil­ity to move to a dif­fer­ent so­cial sta­tus, although in prac­tice it’s about get­ting on in life, mak­ing progress com­pared to where you started.

Find­ing an­swers to this prob­lem is not nec­es­sar­ily straight­for­ward. Ed­u­ca­tion is, of course, key. But ge­og­ra­phy plays a big part too, with the harder to reach places find­ing it dif­fi­cult to at­tract the best staff, and the lack of trans­port hold­ing young peo­ple back from fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion or ap­pren­tice­ships.

It’s also about fam­i­lies – the hopes and as­pi­ra­tions that are passed down the gen­er­a­tions. I know a lot of peo­ple who were the first in their fam­i­lies to go to uni­ver­sity. That achieve­ment meant so much to their par­ents and grand­par­ents, who’d not had the same op­por­tu­nity.

The trou­ble is if you’re liv­ing in a de­prived area, strug­gling to make ends meet, or deal­ing with your own per­sonal prob­lems, it can be hard to have aspi­ra­tion for your own chil­dren. You might just be grate­ful to get through the day.

That is why I was so im­pressed by a course be­ing run by Cat­ton Grove Pri­mary school, on the out­skirts of Nor­wich. They’ve in­vited some par­ents to have their own lessons in life skills, like cook­ing and house­hold fi­nances. They help them reg­is­ter with den­tists or GPs. They teach them how to cope with day to day liv­ing.

One fa­ther, whose wife had died, says it’s changed his life. He hadn’t wanted to talk to any­one af­ter his be­reave­ment. He’d stayed at home, feel­ing iso­lated and lonely. Imag­ine the ef­fect on his chil­dren. Just be­ing in­vited to be with this sup­port­ive, non-judg­men­tal group, and taught how to cook a lasagne, or do a weekly shop, has made all the dif­fer­ence.

Some par­ents have them­selves come from chaotic back­grounds, and have never learnt how to run a home. The more they can be helped by cour­ses like the one at Cat­ton Grove, the more their chil­dren will ben­e­fit. And surely that is where so­cial mo­bil­ity comes in: the feel­ing that your life can im­prove, and with the right kind of help, it will.

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