A generation and a half ago, young people who left school with no qualifications – and that was most of them – could expect to secure a job, and a job on a wage which would enable them to start a family, to buy a car, to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. That’s no longer true. Life’s tougher for young people, and success depends increasingly on good qualifications.
Many young people growing up in South Yorkshire fail to reach their potential. As a whole the region’s education struggles, attainment is lower than it should be and it is a challenge for employers to access workers with the skills that they need to help them grow.
But we simply don’t believe that the region’s young people are less capable of achieving than other young people. We don’t accept that we have less committed or motivated teachers and school leaders. We know that there is outstanding practice. The task is to create ways for that excellence to be spread throughout our schools.
Last year, working alongside partners across the four local authorities, Sheffield City Region LEP, Department for Education and wider local education community, Sheffield Hallam University launched a major social mobility programme to lead improvement for our region’s young people: South Yorkshire Futures.
South Yorkshire Futures is our programme to improve school attainment and raise aspirations across the region – a shared vision for the role of education in improving social mobility in South Yorkshire. Around the world, there is good evidence that concerted action can make a difference. But that concerted action depends on some key building blocks being in place: ambition for all, honesty about the challenges, a commitment to succeed and a willingness to co-operate to make a difference.
We are not naïve about the challenges our schools and teachers face. But we are determined that South Yorkshire Futures will make a difference to those who need it most and help this region to unleash success.