Tue, 09 Jan 2018
WEST Berkshire Council says it is committed to giving all children a chance, but admitted there is “no magic answer” when it comes to tackling deprivation.
Leader Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn) was responding to The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report, which said the district was in the bottom 20 per cent of local authorities for disadvantaged children.
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.
The council has said that the report was “confusing” and that the data did not add up – a point reiterated by Mr Jones.
In a written reply to resident Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, who questioned what the council’s response to the report was, Mr Jones said: “Representing and working in the socially diverse and relatively isolated Lambourn Valley makes me particularly aware of the challenges of social mobility.
“While the number of West Berkshire children living in deprivation is relatively low, we want to ensure they are not disadvantaged.
“We and our educational partners have done a great deal of work focusing attention around the pupil premium spend, but recognise there is no magic answer, and in some cases our very small numbers make it more difficult to implement solutions.”
Mr Jones said the council found the report confusing as it uses data from different years and pointed to another report which found West Berkshire had the smallest ‘inequality gap’ for Good Level of Development (GLAD) nationally.
However, in his reply, Mr Jones went on: “That said we are not complacent.
“The report highlights real issues which we are seeking to address.”
Mr Jones said that one of the council’s top priorities was removing inequality in educational achievement.
He concluded: “While most residents benefit from an enviable quality of life, challenges remain in health, housing and education, which we seek to address alongside partners.
“Mindful that this remains a major issue to address, I am going to suggest that this latest report from the Social Mobility Commission is the subject of further scrutiny.”
Mr Jones also suggested that the council considers the issues at a future meeting.