To receive a verbal update on the social mobility group work and a presentation from the Power of 3 initiative.
7.1 This item included two separate reports; the Chair first introduced Jon McGinty, Managing Director of Gloucester City Council, to give an update on the social mobility group work. Members viewed a presentation (copy attached) and noted the following points:
· There was no universally accepted definition of what we mean by social mobility. In overall terms, we would describe it as making sure everyone had an opportunity to build a good life for themselves regardless of their background or every individual having a fair chance of reaching their potential.
· Whilst it was generally accepted that some level of social mobility had a positive impact on society, there was also no universally accepted benchmark to measure against in terms of how much was good or bad.
· It was widely acknowledged by society that unfortunately where you start in life still had a big impact on where you ended up e.g. in terms of your income, class or geography.
· The Social Mobility Commission was a non-departmental public agency of Govt. which had been created under the Life Chances Act 2010.
· In 2017, the Commission produced a report, Social Mobility in Great Britain which, for the first time, defined a list of 16 indicators to measure social mobility which they used to rank every local authority area in the UK.
· The report showed that only one area in Gloucestershire (Stroud) ranked within the top 20% of authorities for having good social mobility. Three areas in the county ranked in the bottom 20%.
· Following a meeting of Leadership Gloucestershire in 2018, it was agreed that a task group would be set up to look into these findings. A group was formed which included representatives from across the county’s authorities and organisations.
· The first slide showed a brief timeline of the work that was undertook. It was noted however that the progress was slow as all participants were doing so in addition to their normal job.
· Between 2019-2020 the group carried out various pieces of analysis and research, including visiting other areas of the country that had some success in tackling aspects of social mobility.
· Towards the end of 2019, the group were able to secure some resource in the form of a researcher from GCC to start an initial review of all the indicators, with a view of then narrowing in on a smaller set of indicators where the group would carry out a deep dive and produce some recommendations.
· In early 2020, following this initial review, the group agreed to focus on the following three areas:
o Early years interventions and activities;
o Key Stage 3 issues in educational terms; and
o Youth, and progress to higher educational phases.
· Unfortunately, the group met on 11 March 2020 which was when Covid hit and the work had not progressed since then. The researcher from GCC was a public health officer so that support was also lost.
· In September 2020, the Commission produced a new report (The Long Shadow of Deprivation) which looked at social mobility from a different angle, following where an individual’s average earnings had reached 10-20 years after they left education.
· This new report however did not show any areas in Gloucestershire as being within the least socially mobile areas, and actually identified the Cotswolds as being one of the most socially mobile areas in the country, when it had previously ranked within the bottom 20%.
· The task group shared their initial research with the Commission late last year and had now been asked to join a group of local authorities to start some joined up work across the country post-Covid.
· It remained their ambition to bring a full report back to Leadership Gloucestershire as soon as this was viable.
7.2 The Committee thanked Jon for the detailed and very interesting update on work done so far.
7.3 It was questioned whether the impact of a reduction in youth work and youth support had been noticed in the initial research. It was advised that the group needed to gather more data to approve or deny this statement, but it was certainly something they anecdotally could see having an impact.
7.4 Looking back at the RAG rating against the 16 indicators from the first Commission report, members were advised that there were a lot of red indicators in early years i.e. we were aware that there were a number of children in the county had not reached a good level of development by the time they started primary school.
7.5 The indicators then improved at primary school level, which would reflect the fact that most primary schools in the county had good or outstanding Ofsted ratings. The red indicators then returned when reaching secondary school and youth age groups.
7.6 Welcoming the research to date, a member questioned what the next stage was, and how the group planned to go from useful and interesting research into something that became transformational for our communities. In response, the Committee noted that the group were very focused on making sure this was a data driven piece of work to give as much weight to the resulting recommendations as possible. It would be key to reinstate a researcher to continue the deeper dive into the three identified areas.
7.7 The group appreciated that if there was a simple answer to this, it would have been found by now so they expected the outcomes of this research to be very complex, but with some easier more immediate actions that could be taken as well. These recommendations would then be fed back to the membership of Leadership Gloucestershire to take forward.
7.8 On the topic of selective grammar schools in the county, it was queried whether the scope would cover such fundamental questions such as the effectiveness of selective schooling on social mobility. In response, members noted that one of the representatives on the group was a head teacher from one of the grammar schools, who had reported their shock at the small number of children at the local primary schools that had aspirations to go to one of the county’s grammar schools.
ACTION: Share data discussed at the meeting
7.9 An officer comment reinforced that even though this issue started with the word ‘social’ it was actually really couched in the success of the economy and making sure that every resident was able to benefit from and contribute to the success of their own economy. Noting this, it was suggested that the group may want to make a bid to the SEDF for their researcher resource.
7.10 The next presentation was received from an organisation called the Power of 3. The Committee were joined by Dawn Barnes (Secretary of the Matson, Robinswood and White City Community Partnership), Bob Allen (Chair of the Matson, Robinswood and White City Community Partnership) and Dr Iain Riddell (advisor/consultant of the partnership). The Committee noted the following points from their presentation:
· The Partnership started as a council initiative in the early 2000 and enabled the communities to coordinate a number of civic society groups and a legacy of community activity, whilst also having a place to discuss issues and opportunities.
· In 2015/16 the Partnership received a small Govt. grant which enabled them to produce a local community economic plan focused on social mobility and people’s wellbeing. The plan brought three very distinct communities together, Matson, Robinswood and White City in Gloucester. It became known as the Power of 3.
· Slide 4 outlined the first phase of the Power of Three which included aims such as changing how others in the City and the County looked upon the three communities and more importantly, how the communities saw themselves.
· An example of the Partnership’s early work was an awards evening celebrating what was good in the communities, what residents gave to the estate and to each other.
· Following a successful rollout of phase 1 priorities, the Partnership refocused their efforts from 2019 to phase 2 (detailed on slide 5).
· The first priority focused on acknowledging the fact that the communities had a wealth of skills, which were often unrecognised and undervalued, as well as many residents only able to live day to day financially and being time poor. The Partnership wanted to provide more doorstep opportunities for training and development.
· The second focused on regeneration, which was seen as more than just about homes, but about parks, open spaces and the opportunities that came with it. It recognised that it was the residents of the communities who were the stakeholders of regenerations in their areas.
· Thirdly, the Partnership were very aware and not shying away from the challenging future in respect of climate change. All of its flagship projects would aim to pave the way for how development can still be done in a carbon neutral environment. It recognised however the need for a joined up policy approach to raising money for retrofitting and restoring existing housing stock and community buildings.
· The fourth priority recognised that many community projects across the ward were not seen for the assets that they were. This social imbalance had been massively brought to the forefront by Covid and had enabled the Partnership to hit the ground running in responding and providing that community support throughout the pandemic.
· It was stressed that community organisations were often left fire fighting to keep their doors open due to being left out of commissioning and funding opportunities. It was felt frustrating and counter productive for groups who knew what they were doing worked for their community, having to change the way they did things just to meet different funding criteria bids. For sustained change, communities needed longer term investment.
· The fifth priority was based around the knowledge that when people were actively involved in their community, it made them stronger.
· Finally, it was recognised that children from poorer backgrounds had worse educational attainment and completed education significantly disadvantaged to others. This also referenced how digital exclusion had been magnified tenfold by Covid and it was vital to address this.
· The final slide focused on the concept of Social Capital.
· Similar to the data presented in the first part of this item, the Partnership had worked through a number of statistics to try and understand the social mobility impacts in data form at ward level.
· It was learnt, among other things, that the primary schools in the ward, did not have enough spaces for all of the children inside the ward. In addition, the level of free school meal uptake was heavily condensed inside the ward’s primary schools as opposed to elsewhere in the City.
· What this showed therefore was if parents in the ward could afford to do so, had access to a car etc. they were following a social mobility agenda in terms of taking their child to schools outside the ward.
· The county should be mindful of the relationship between social mobility and its understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Areas in these wards were likely to experience cycles of poverty that families would go through generation after generation. It was this passage of complex situations that undermined resident’s ability to take part in social mobility that needed to be addressed.
· Research showed that economic opportunity was thwarted by a lack of knowledge and understanding. It was vital therefore that when councils were think through policies to assist residents to reach economic potential, that it was not a generic ‘one size fits’ countywide model but very specific approaches for individual areas.
· Because of the way the economics in the ward were structured, the Partnership were aware that there was a low number of residents who had higher education qualifications, which transpired into a low level of high skilled jobs. Schools in the ward therefore needed to be mindful that a career talk on high skilled jobs would not be enough on its own to support children in understanding and navigating the avenues to reach the higher skills and qualifications needed.
· An example was given of the Partnership trying to organise for a group of children and young people to visit the University of Gloucestershire’s art department during the summer holidays to understand what university life might be like, and where a career in arts might take them. Unfortunately this concept never went anywhere due to a lack of understanding of the purpose behind it. The Partnership were now exploring other avenues.
7.11 It was questioned whether the Partnership had any initiatives related to numeracy skills, which was acknowledged to be one of the main barriers for moving into many career paths. It was advised that the Partnership did not have any after school work clubs in the community as this was part of a broader issue about effective engagement between the local schools and the community needs.
7.12 Reference was also made to the increased pressure on parents, due to the need to emergency home school during the pandemic, of understanding and being able to support their children when they themselves may lack the skill levels to do so. It was mentioned earlier that there was a real need for adult education provisions in the wards, like community colleges used to serve, but this had to be something that would fit with the reality of being a parent working full time etc.
7.13 A member asked how the Partnership measured their work. It was noted that producing data at a ward level was not easy and it would be much better if they had a baseline to work from first, but this remained a challenge. They do however work closely with Gloucester Gateway Trust as the ward was one the Trust’s target areas. The Trust carried out an annual survey of their areas which helped give the Partnership an idea of progress and the direction they were moving in.
7.14 It was suggested that social mobility in the past had been seen to increase when society experienced episodes that disrupted the normal process. It may therefore be that the current pandemic had a positive impact in the long terms on some aspects such as the lack of school examinations. This may mean businesses in the future could refocus on who they want to employ, rather than relying on examination certificates.
7.15 Members acknowledged that cross-county communication of similar community groups was vital. Sharing knowledge and experience between different wards would avoid duplicating work loads and community groups forming a much stronger base. This cross working also needed to include county partners such as GCC, the LEP and the City Region Board.