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Children in Thanet have among worst social mobility in country

By Paul Francis

Disadvantaged children growing up in Thanet have the poorest prospects in all of Kent, a shock report has found.

The area is ranked as the 275th worst place overall for social mobility out of 324 local authority areas in the country, according to the latest annual report by the Social Mobility Commission.

And it suggests that adults in Thanet have some of the worst prospects of anywhere in the country, with the report ranking the area as the 316th poorest when it comes to employment, earnings and housing.

Children in Thanet have poor prospects of being raised out of poverty. Picture: Thinkstock
Children in Thanet have poor prospects of being raised out of poverty. Picture: Thinkstock

The report reveals a split between east Kent and the rest of the county - the latter offering children the best chances of doing well in their lives.

The commission says Thanet faces challenges because of its coastal location, describing it as typical of isolated areas along the coast that struggle.

It also says residents “face high costs of housing alongside poor outcomes on jobs and pay.”

On the plus side, the area appears to give pre-school children a good start. It is ranked 20th as a “hotspot” - the best social mobility outcome - of 30 authorities.

But by the time they finish school, their prospects have declined with a slump in the area’s ranking to 277 out of all authority areas.

Of young people on free school meals, 81% are so-called “Neets” - not in education or training or employment after doing their GCSEs.

Paul Luxmoore, the Executive Headteacher of Coastal Academies Trust, said he was not surprised by the findings.

“Thanet is the most deprived part of Kent and has the greatest number of socio-economic problems and by far the highest number of students economically inactive.”

Its problems were aggravated by the on-going issue of London councils placing vulnerable children in the area.

“Thanet is the repository of all the problems of the south east so it is not surprising social mobility is poor and the outcomes for schools are poor.”

Thanet youngsters are unlikely to be socially mobile, according to the report. STOCK IMAGE
Thanet youngsters are unlikely to be socially mobile, according to the report. STOCK IMAGE

Schools were doing what they could to lift the prospects of their children against a backdrop of growing gang violence in the area and the constrictions that the government’s emphasis on a more academic curriculum imposed.

“We know which children are likely to fail GCSEs why not teach them skills they need to become potential employers or entrepeneurs?”

Alan Milburn, who has stood down as the commission’s chairman in protest at the government’s failure to act, said more effort was needed to close the gap.

“Too many rural and coastal areas and the towns of Britain’s old industrial heartlands are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.”

“Tinkering around the edges will not do the trick. The analysis in this report substantiates the sense of political alienation and social resentment that so many parts of Britain feel.”

Labour Thanet county councillor Karen Constantine said the area lacked any strategy for improving the life chances of children.

“What Thanet needs is a 'kick start' to catch up with its neighbours across the South East. It needs a real economic boost, it needs urgent plans for regeneration. Thanet council and KCC need to look urgently at how they can develop a strategy for boosting disadvantaged children's prospects.”

Thanet council declined to comment.

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