Earlier this month I was proud to join academics, early years professionals, teachers and the people responsible for helping schools improve performance, to celebrate the success of South Yorkshire Futures, who are doing great work here in Barnsley and across the region.
South Yorkshire Futures is a social mobility scheme run by Sheffield Hallam University. It aims to tackle the issue that too many of our young people aren’t as healthy, independent, emotionally secure and socially competent as they could be. This is an important mission and one that I am fully behind.
If we don’t come together to tackle some of the issues facing our children and young people we’re harming their chances to thrive. We need to work together to help lift their ambitions and show children and young people, that with the right help and support, they can be whatever they want to be.
In Barnsley last year, only 9% of students receiving free school meals went on to university. It cannot be right that only 4% of doctors and 6% of barristers come from the poorest backgrounds. Or that 80% of Oxbridge entrants are drawn from just the top 2 social classes. It shouldn’t be the case that a child is 7.5 times less likely to succeed if their father comes from the lowest attainment bracket.
In a survey of primary school head teachers from across the country, they said that a third of children were not ‘school ready’ for reception class. As a result, they are behind right from the start. And they continue to fall behind right through to GCSE and A-levels.
I am committed to doing something about this and ensure that our young people receive the help and support they need through all stages of their life, to ensure that they can all reach their full potential.
This is not just a commitment that I have made, but one that all four South Yorkshire Local Authorities also support. They have all signed the Early Years pledge which demonstrates their commitment to improving education for 0 to five-year olds.
And so, to help support the work of South Yorkshire Futures I am going to be writing to the 100 leading businesses across the Sheffield City Region to help build a talented pool of mentors, school governors and volunteers to support schools in the region. I am also committing some of my Mayoral resources to the creation of a South Yorkshire Futures Mayoral Partnership Fund to support their work.
Here in Barnsley, we have some fantastically dedicated teachers who work day in day out to provide the help and support young people need. I would like to thank them for all their hard work, but now is the time that we all step up and support them.
By doing this, I know we can deliver genuine transformational change for all children and young people in our town and across South Yorkshire, to ensure they have the skills and education to help them achieve their full potential.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 5 October 2018.