Parts of Bradford have among the worst rates of educational under- achievement found in the country, leading to one MP calling for parents’ qualifications to be considered when looking at which pupils need the most support.
A survey by the University and College Union (UCU) has found that 15 of the 22 West Yorkshire parliamentary constituencies have more residents without any qualifications than the British average, which stands at 10.7 per cent.
The hotspots for educational under-achievement in the region include Bradford East, which has more than one in five residents aged 16 to 64 without any academic qualifications.
It ranks sixth worst out of 632 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales for its proportion of adults without qualifications at 23.7 per cent, closely followed by Bradford West at 18.2 per cent, Bradford South at 16.8 per cent and Keighley at 10.9 per cent.
In contrast, the figure in Shipley was below the national average at nine per cent.
Bradford East MP David Ward, fresh from a trip to Holland with the Education Select Committee to see how Early Years education is conducted there, said that elsewhere there is more focus on the educational attainments of parents, rather than income which is the factor used in the UK, when assessing whether students needed more help.
“It is a problem,” he said.
“Some of the problems we have are families on low incomes and high levels of deprivation exist.
“Add to that the low level of qualifications of the parents and you have double the problem. There are still a lot of new arrivals from the continent with low educational qualifications and, in some cases, no educational background. That is bound to have an effect on their own children’s education.
“It just shows the importance of providing additional support.”
UCU ranked the parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales, according to the percentage of working-age people (16 to 64 years old) who have no academic qualifications. The analysis coincides with the start of a new campaign to promote the knowledge economy and its contribution to the country.
UCU regional official Mark Oley said: “This survey shows us that educational under-achievement is widespread across West Yorkshire, with parts of Bradford and Huddersfield having some of the highest numbers of people without qualifications in Britain.
“We know it is the knowledge economy that will drive economic growth, enhance social mobility and enable our country to compete globally. Yet politicians all too often seem to see cutting off access for young and old to educational opportunities as an easy target. Given the opportunity, everyone can benefit from education.”
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab) said: “We need to all work together to improve this situation.
“When I speak to teachers they see children with low aspirations and people have the feeling they can’t do well.
“We need to help parents with children’s centres and primary schools and hopefully things will get better.”
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “We need an education system which allows people from anywhere to succeed and I believe that the reforms the Government are making will help, but believe ultimately we need a return to selection and the assisted places scheme in order to ensure that children from the poorest backgrounds can access the best schools.”
Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said that addressing educational attainment was the most important issue the Government faced and it was certainly concerning that levels across Bradford district are rated so poorly, according to the analysis.
He said: “I note that these figures relate back to 2011 and tangible progress has certainly been made since then. However, the pace of improvement must quicken if we are to give our young people the best possible chance to succeed.”
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bradford West, said: “Sadly these figures just reiterate what I have been saying from before I was elected, that the standard of education in this part of the world is appalling. There is a crisis in education which no one will admit to because they are part of the problem rather than the solution.
“We need a full-blown and independent inquiry into why the education authorities are failing students and parents. I am fed up with the old excuses I want action.”