You may have seen this week the news that Mansfield, and the surrounding areas, appeared right at the very bottom of the national data for social mobility in a report highlighted by the BBC.
This is a sad state of affairs of course, but it’s not a new problem.
For decades Mansfield has been overlooked, and missed out on some of the funding and support that’s been given to other areas - particularly to cities like Nottingham and Sheffield which have tended to get more investment than surrounding towns. We need to change this, to make Mansfield more connected. We need to ensure that the changing nature of business, with digital technology meaning that they don’t have to be located in London or big cities any more, can benefit us with jobs and prosperity. There is lots to be done, but actually it’s not all about money.
One of my biggest priorities is education, and through it supporting the aspirations of young people in Mansfield to do well, and to be aware of all of the options and choices that are available to them. West Notts College is a fine example of this, but there’s more that can be done.
The Education Secretary Justine Greening visited Mansfield a few weeks ago and spoke to local business about the role that they can play in supporting young people, through work experience and apprenticeships, and through engaging with education to ensure it’s relevant to the jobs that they have to offer.
This is a huge thing for our whole town. If we can ensure that kids leaving school in Mansfield are genuinely outward looking and aware of all of the possibilities out there - not just university, which is far from the only choice and not always the best option - then we’ll raise that aspiration and we’ll see more and more young people in Mansfield going on to do better than their parents.
Social mobility is important, and it has to start at the beginning - in childhood, at home and at school. That’s vital if we are to move up this BBC table, and more importantly to make help Mansfield fulfil its potential. Aspiration is the key, and it’s the biggest thing I’m talking to Government about for our area.