Sunday, 24 March 2019

Rural poverty, rural immobility > "opportunities in rural areas are not as abundant for young people as they are in cities"

It's a very difficult thing to work out which areas of the country are rich or poor:
These maps show how hard it is to measure inequality in English council areas | CityMetric

The government keeps statistics of sorts:
Rural poverty statistics - GOV.UK

However, we do know that 25% of farming families live on or below the poverty line:
#KeepBritainFarming: Country Living campaign to save the UK's small family farms

Research shows that many living in the countryside cannot afford to keep warm:

The Sunday Times today warns about the realities of life in the country:

What young people quitting the city for the countryside need to know

India Knight 
The Sunday Times, March 24 2019

Sweet cottages aren't all inhabited by adorable, apple-cheeked people. Nature is violent. Rural poverty is shocking. Winters are long...

The Huffington Post looks at the issues: 

When Will Britain Acknowledge Our Countryside Poverty?

Has social mobility stopped? Certainly not, but if you live in a rural area your chances are being constrained



Dan Boatright 

As a teacher I always find myself saying phrases like ‘if you work hard, you will reap the rewards’, ‘all those hours of studying will pay off’ and ‘keep your nose to the grindstone and you will achieve your goals’.

But in truth I know that there is still a huge barrier in front of my students – not what you know, but who you know. It pays to be connected – If social mobility worked effectively we would see the 7% of people who attended private schools being 7% of the leaders in their respective professions. Instead 50% of the leading people in such professions as politics, media and film, law, the arts, music and elite sports attended a private schools. While I do not begrudge them their success, this clearly demonstrates social mobility is not working in the UK.

If you live in a rural environment your chances of being successful in life are very much linked to your early years. I live in rural Worcestershire, and went to college from rural North Yorkshire. I remain the only degree educated person in my family and the reasons are clear – opportunities in rural areas are not as abundant for young people as they are in cities. As a result, our countryside has become a social mobility coldspot, with my local council of Wychavon rated 310th out of 324 councils in a recent government report. If your parents are plumbers or cleaners, bakers or builders, the chances are you will follow in their footsteps. For some, through choice, but for others, it is because options are limited.

It is easy to hide social mobility in the countryside. My town of Pershore is generally a well-off and affluent area. House prices and wages are above the national average, the town is a great place to raise children and the schools are generally good. But if you are from a working-class background and work in the service industry the average house prices of £300,000 quickly make the experience of living in the area unsustainable. And the recent revelation that house prices have been forced upwards by the government’s Help to Buy scheme, just adds to the issues people face. With housing unaffordable, people are struggling to help their children access opportunities to increase their chances in life.

Education is the key to success. Education opens doors to all, regardless of backgrounds. But in a rural area, education opportunities can be very limited. Schools have the added pressures of large catchment areas, with children travelling from a wide area. Class sizes can also be small and, in the current educational climate, unsustainable. So schools have to focus on traditional GCSE and A level subjects, limiting their students’ knowledge of other, potentially inspiring minority subjects. Similarly colleges focus on qualifications aimed at the local economy. In Pershore, our local college is an agricultural centre so, if a young person wants to study ancient history or geology, electrical engineering or photography, they must travel to neighbouring towns. This commute requires time and the money, and is also restricted further by the continued reduction of bus services in the area.

But it is an even bigger issue for the local economy if young people decide to go to university. As young men and women move into cities to study at university, they create a rural brain drain. This results in a drop in the 18-30 year old population, which further limits the opportunities of those who remain as it keeps job opportunities in traditional low paid professions. New industries rarely emerge and there are few incentives for young locals to return after graduation. With limited public transport and sluggish roll-out of high speed broadband graduates find no drive to return to their childhood homes.

The situation is more optimistic in inner cities. London occupies 17 of the top 20 most socially mobile councils. Young people have access to more post-16 education institutions, more teachers for specialist A-level subjects, more universities, and more employers with better-quality jobs.

As a teacher of geography and geology, I experience the impact that smaller subjects can have on young people who have not yet found their chosen career path. Studying a minority subject like geology (where jobs are abundant but awareness is limited), gives many students a sense of direction that they would have lacked if they did not know about Earth sciences and the careers available. But it is only in large colleges, or private institutions, that such subjects are sustainable. Furthermore, larger colleges in urban areas can access opportunities for their students. Working at an inner city college with many students from a deprived area, it is clear what we have to do to help them succeed. In areas like Pershore, poorer students are less visible and it is harder to identify individual needs; opportunities remain limited, especially for those without the finances or confidence to travel to neighbouring areas.

Of course not everything is perfect in major cities, but it is clear that opportunities are more accessible and education is the driving force that helps students from more deprived environments succeed in life. Wychavon, however, is struggling to keep up with the pace, with education opportunities limited and access to transport becoming ever more a problem. Has social mobility stopped? Certainly not. But if you live in a rural area, your chances are being constrained, and maybe we need to seek alternative approaches to help our rural young people succeed.

When Will Britain Acknowledge Our Countryside Poverty? | HuffPost UK

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