WEST Berkshire Council has hit back at a national report naming the district as a social mobility ‘cold spot’.
The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report said that West Berkshire was in the bottom 20 per cent of local authorities for disadvantaged children.
But the council has said that the report is “confusing” and that the data does not add up.
The report picked out West Berkshire as an affluent area that delivered worse outcomes for disadvantaged children than its poorer counterparts.
Indeed, the report placed the district in the bottom 10 per cent – 317th out of 324 local authorities – in terms of life chances for disadvantaged nursery pupils.
West Berkshire Council, which did not respond in time for the Newbury Weekly News deadline last week, has countered the report’s verdict.
A spokeswoman for the council, Peta Stoddart-Crompton, said: “This Social Mobility in Great Britain report is confusing as it uses data from different years, but identifies West Berkshire as a ‘cold spot’ when it comes to the percentage of early years children who qualify for free school meals (FSM) achieving a good level of development (GLD).”
The council said that it had been improving in this area, with the number achieving GLD rising from 36 per cent in 2014 to 57 per cent in 2016 and placing it 38th nationally.
“Numbers fluctuate greatly with 17 schools having only one FSM child,” Ms Stoddart-Crompton said. “Our cohort consisted of 133 children from a year group of 1,959, of which 68 achieved a GLD.
“FSM is a particular and blunt way of measuring deprivation and it is interesting to note that in a more contemporary report Early years Foundation Stage Profile Results in England 2017, published on October 19 by the DfE, West Berkshire is shown as having the smallest ‘inequality gap’ for GLD nationally and cited by name.
“Early Years remains an area of focus and one where we are seeing a growing percentage accessing early years places.”
The council said that the percentage of Ofsted rated good and outstanding schools in the authority had risen from 72 per cent in 2015 to 95 per cent.
However, it said that numbers fluctuated considerably and that teacher recruitment “continued to be a challenge”.
At the other end of the scale, the district was named as a hotspot and ranked as 16th in the country for working life, which the council said was “pleasing”.