Chloe Smith: Let’s join in helping Norwich’s children to a brighter future

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture Archant.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture Archant. - Credit: Archant

Last year we got some difficult news – that Norwich was one of the hardest places in England for our poorest children to get on in life.

We all care deeply about that, because we want all children to be able to choose their path, no matter where they start from. As a city MP I immediately started bringing people together to look at the problem.

Now, action is happening. I'm pleased that Norwich was made one of 12 Opportunity Areas in October 2016 by Education Secretary Justine Greening to improve social mobility.

Opportunity Areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter what their background. High-quality education at every stage is critical. But it will focus not just on what we can do to help inside schools, but also create the opportunities outside school that will raise sights and broaden horizons for young people.

The Norwich Opportunity Area is a network of local partners collaborating on coordinated activities to increase social mobility in Norwich. The Department for Education is concentrating extra funding and all forms of support on Norwich and the other selected places, over three years, to make a difference to young people's lives and help them overcome the barriers that hold them back.

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Very soon, you'll see the full Norwich plan. It will:

1 Improve speech and communication in the early years so that children have the best chance as they start school

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2 Improve teaching and attainment, from primary school through to age 18, so that young people gain the skills, knowledge and qualifications they need for the next stage of their life

3 Provide advice on careers and working life, supporting and informing young people in key decisions around qualifications and skills needed at important transition points, enabling them to get on the right path to their chosen career

4 And reduce the number of children at risk of exclusion and disengagement from education.

I've seen evidence of all these concerns in my constituency work, and you have too through the pages of this newspaper. If we can fix these things, we will give the young people of our city and county a better future. To get this right, we need to work together, use evidence wisely and make the change stick.

Young people must be at the heart of this. I know this from the successful Norwich for Jobs project – you have to work with young people, not over their heads!

So, I'm chairing a special Youth Board for this Opportunity Area programme. Young people have already told us they want it to ensure that their voices are heard. They want to help young people to see, create and take opportunities. We will scrutinise and support the work of the whole programme to help it deliver for Norwich's young people.

And here's the ask: can you be part of this? I want to hear from you if you're growing up in Norwich and want to help young people in our city get on. Maybe you're not so young yourself but are reading this and know someone who is! We want your help to represent the views of young people across our city.

Here's what our Youth Board members are saying already:

'Norwich is a beautiful city and it has so much young talent that needs to be recognised and realised. Everyone should have the same opportunities, no matter where they're from.'

Alfie, 16

'If we want young people to thrive, we need to show them how opportunities can relate to them and their lives in Norwich.'

Zoe, 19

'I see the Youth Board as an opportunity to express my own values and the opinions of my peers at school. I look forward to working with people who have the mutual passion to make a change for the young people in Norwich.'

Abbie, 14

So will you get involved?

Chloe Smith is MP for Norwich North

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