Cabinet Office: Low aspirations not inevitable in deprived areas

Young people in deprived areas tend to have lower than average aspirations, however those in certain disadvantaged communities have relatively high expectations, Cabinet Office research has found. 

A social exclusion taskforce research paper published today said aspirations had a significant influence on educational attainment among deprived communities.

It found that the lowest educational aspirations were found in ex-industrial communities, often in the North of England.

Insular with low levels of mobility

These communities were typically insular with a low level of mobility and a sense of decline. The report said: “Strong local networks are often a source of empowerment, strength and support. However they can also constrain individuals to familiar choices and locations.”

Parents and young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds tended to have lower expectations, the paper found. It identified parents and peers as having a strong influence on young people’s aspirations.

However, it found that young people in some very deprived communities – which were typically ethnically diverse, mobile, urban neighbourhoods – had high aspirations for their futures.

11-14 years crucial                                                          

The period from ages 11-14 was a key time when aspirations become more realistic and the influence of peers and wider society increased, the report found.

White boys had the lowest aspirations and also failed to improve academically at the rate of most other ethnic groups, while girls consistently had the highest educational aspirations.

Economic regeneration, improving access to benefits and boosting skills among parents and young people were all identified as key initiatives to improve aspiration and attainment. The report also highlighted the importance of diverse sources of inspiration for young people, as well as reliable advice, peer-led confidence and self-belief as key to achievement.

The findings are designed to inform a white paper on social mobility that will be published in the New Year.

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