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By VICTORIA LEGGETT, Education correspondent
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire have been branded some of the worst in the country for young people to grow up in when it comes to achieving their dreams.
According to a report called Frustration to Aspiration, published today, Great Yarmouth is second only to Knowsley on Merseyside in terms of the obstacles faced by youngsters hoping to gain top qualifications, pursue fulfilling careers and own their own homes.
Waveney, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, and North Norfolk feature in the bottom 20 of 324 local authority areas, with Fenland, Breckland, and Norwich faring not much better.
Broadland and South Norfolk are the best performing of Norfolk districts but even they feature well within the bottom half of the table.
The report has been put together by education and training specialists Ambitious Minds and pulls together a host of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to create a picture of the best and worst places to live when growing up.
Key factors include GCSE results – which this year saw Norfolk fall further down the national league table despite record performances by many schools – youth unemployment and house prices in relation to average earnings.
MPs and education and business leaders said the region’s performance did not come as a huge surprise and work was already under way to try to overcome issues which continued to hold young people back.
But they also insisted there was light on the horizon and, with a new focus on growing industries like green energy, improvements were on the way.
Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “The report makes disturbing reading and shows the depths of the challenges faced by Norfolk and Suffolk and most starkly by the populations of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
“However there are grounds for hope and the next few years offer very significant opportunities for employment and jobs growth with the development of our energy sector.”
He said the LEP was targeting investment in tourism and encouraging growth, through the Enterprise Zone, in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft but insisted “unless we act there will be a lost generation of young people in these areas”.
The Frustration to Aspiration report took a wide range of statistics, from university admissions to child poverty, and weighted them according to the areas young people consider most important.
GCSE results, youth unemployment, the percentage of people living at home, and house prices in relation to average earnings were given the greatest weighting, although jobs density, the number of house re-possessions, and insolvency among young people were also taken into account.
Lower than average achievements at GCSE, low average earnings and high youth unemployment – particularly in Waveney and Great Yarmouth – went against our districts.
Sean McGuire, chief executive of report authors Ambitious Minds, said: “One damaging consequence of these problems has serious implications for all of us – for the first time in living memory, this generation of young people face the prospect of being financially worse off than their parents.”
Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk which was ranked 305th out of 324 local authority areas, said: “This is part of the challenge for the county, moving away from more traditional forms of employment. We are having to go through a transition to a new economy and, actually, we have fantastic opportunities ahead of us, particularly around the new green economy.
“Norfolk can do it, I have great confidence, but there is a way to go,” he said.
Last night Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children’s services, said the authority was investing in a range of programmes to ensure all Norfolk young people could fulfil their potential. That includes £3.5m to provide 400 apprenticeships, millions of pounds as part of the Troubled Families Programme, and funding through the Youth Advisory Boards to allow young people to play a role in distributing funding.
Mrs Thomas added: “We are moving in the right direction and remain focused on helping more of our young people achieve their ambitions.”