Since the late 1990s we’ve seen a multiplicity of conflicting groups and styles ranging from young people involved in acid house parties with its repetitive beat and new drugs such as blues and ecstasy to Goths dressed in black and white makeup and into art drawn predominantly from middle-class backgrounds. Recently ‘Rap’, ‘Emos’ ‘Skaters and the much maligned ‘Chavs’ as noted by Owen Jones have appeared on the social scene.
Author: Stephen Lambert
Both the CBI and TUC have long argued that the North of England has fallen behind other parts of the UK and other countries in the level of ‘intermediate’ skills held by the labour force. The Durham university educationalist Frank Coffield and others continue to see the German system of technical education and apprenticeships as the way forward.
Historically, we’ve been here before. One variant of this can be seen with the rise of the charismatic town hall boss T. Dan Smith in Newcastle. Dismissed by many as a corrupt politician on the make, Smith is now the subject of an alternative perspective by writers ranging from former Wear Valley Lib-Dem leader Chris Foote Wood and Tyneside historian Nigel Todd.
Let’s provide space in the national curriculum in the form of citizenship lessons for learning about democracy, democratic processes, rights, responsibilities and justice, and developing all students’ skills sets. This alterative is based on education and intellectual enquiry, not just surveillance – important as this is. For liberal and representative democracy to be real, people need skills, knowledge, confidence and contacts. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, called politics the ”master science” – its purposes being the common good of humanity.
Other groups aren’t penalised for lack of knowledge or engagement in politics by being denied the vote, so it doesn’t make sense that 16 and 17-year olds should have to be ‘model citizens’ in order to gain he right to vote.
The lost boys of the North East: why are the region’s young men trailing behind young women at school?
Educationalists are divided as to the reason why young white working- class men are doing less well at every stage in the school system while young women are doing better than ever. The children’s Commissioner in Growing Up North puts it down to poverty and poor material circumstances in the home. There’ some evidence that teachers are not strict with boys. They are more likely to extend deadlines for written work, to have lower expectations of boys, and tend to be more tolerant of low level anti-social behaviour in the classroom.
As the psychologist Jussin (2017) notes girls’ low-take up of STEM-based and IT subjects has less to do with ability or discrimination than the fact that girls who excel at maths/science are as likely to be good at humanities based subjects. Young women she concludes are ”better all – rounders, but too few of those who are good at science choose it as their specialism post-16.”
Of course, strengthening surveillance is crucial. But the government need to take steps to better engage groups in anti-radicalisation measures delivered through a multi-agency approach. Central government is conducting a review into Prevent to help shed its ”toxic image” amongst some sections of the community. One important way to tackle potential radicalisation is through education and training.
The widening gulf between rich and poor in our capital city and elsewhere in the nation’s urban cores has undermined the sense that there’s a notion of a common way of life. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described London as a ‘tale of two cities’ shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire. Others have pointed to the sharp rise in radical Islamic home-grown terrorism in London and Manchester alongside far-right white supremacist violence resulting in the murder of the ant-racism campaigner Jo Cox MP.
To break down gender stereotypes more needs to be done. Toy-producers need to scrap sexist toys, teachers need to be more aware of gender-related equality issues, book-publishers need to be more ‘gender neutral’ and more needs to done by government agencies to encourage more women into technology and science and more men into the female-dominated caring professions.
Grammar schools were designed for that quarter of the population deemed ‘academic’, and secondary moderns for the rest. Selection was based on an IQ exam, the 11-plus, the brainchild of Cyril Burt, the psychologist. Passing the 11-plus was the visa to the local Grammar school. The system lasted till the 1960s when a number of left-wing intellectuals, including Tony Crosland and Michael Young, called time. The system wasn’t working. The time was right for the ‘comprehensive revolution’. In 2020, most young people in the region go to their local high school.
Anti-Semitism may be seen as a feature of the far left but it has manifested itself in Britain’s far right
Since 2009, Newcastle has witnessed a number of far-right protests, led by organisations such as the EDL, Pegida, National Action and North East Infidel, which at their peak attracted 1,500 demonstrators. In Gateshead anti-Semitic hate crime is at a high according to a report by the Community Security Trust. In 2017 hate crime in the Newcastle increased by 68 per cent compared to the previous year, with racial and faith-based offences making up 82 per cent of all hate crimes according to the 2017 Safe Newcastle report.
For millions, owning your own home is still an aspiration. 29% of people, known as ‘generation rent’’, are trapped in costly, insecure and often grotty private rented accommodation up from 11% a decade ago. One in four adults, aged 20 to 34, are still living with their parents. In the meantime houses have soared by 75% since 1995, overtaking both inflation and salary increases. The average house price is now eight times the average wage. For the hosing pressure group a growing number of people could be ”locked out of homeownership potentially for ever”. According to the English Housing Survey in 2007, 72% of those aged 35 to 44 owned their homes. By 2014, this had fallen to 52%.
Discovery School, the first Free School in Newcastle, closed its doors in 2018, following a damning Ofsted report which revealed plummeting standards, weak leadership and dangerous ‘riotous’ behaviour amongst a significant minority of its pupils.
The current position of religion is far more complex. Spiritual beliefs are alive and well and are still the motivating factors in some people’s lives, even if they’re not expressed through organised churches or denominations. This has become pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the number of rough sleepers in Newcastle is much lower than Manchester and other core cities, with up to 20 individuals sleeping out in the city centre on any given night, many thousands more make up the ‘hidden homeless’. Some sofa-surf in friends’ flats. Others sleep in cars or stay in charity-run hostels, grotty B&B hotels and other costly forms of temporary accommodation. According to the housing campaign group Shelter, a staggering 320,000 people are homeless in modern Britain.
70,000 youngsters are now educated in private boarding schools. Till recently in decline, they’re going through a revival partly due to the popularity of Harry Potter films. As the author Alex Renton points out in ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, wealthy families from the Far East, Russia, Germany and Saudi are sending their boys and girls in huge numbers to these establishments to boost family status and to enable them to make the right connections and ”meet the right people”.
Universal suffrage has been achieved for the majority of working people aged 18 and over. Yet some people still find it hard to vote in elections. For instance, people with physical disabilities sometimes face barriers, with 67% of polling stations not being accessible. Partially sighted or blind people experience obstacles to even make it onto the electoral registration system. In some councils, the forms aren’t easy to read or makes sense of.
One result of this legal change was that some landlords refused to invest in their properties as a way of maintaining high profits. Rents were cheaper in 1919-1938, but the condition of homes declined with overcrowding a big problem across the northern industrial heartlands.
One striking exception to this was the ‘Byker Wall’ development in 1968 to 1982 – a block of 620 maisonettes with colourful architecture and sensitive landscaping. Five years ago the estate was transferred to the Byker Community Trust and has £20m investment since 2012. It won an award in 2017 – ‘Best Post War Neighbourhood’ at the Academy of Urbanisation.
There remains a real danger that UKIP or even Nigel Farage’s re-launched Brexit Party into the new Reform Party could become more racialised. If Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy and programme fails to deliver in the North and Midlands, these parties could enjoy a future resurgence in the region’s urban towns and coastal communities. They already hold a number of council seats in both Hartlepool and Sunderland, and they polled well in local elections in Newcastle’s east end.
Age apartheid, with a generational divide in voting habits and political attitudes, has become a feature of post-Brexit Britain. For Stephen Burke, director of the think tank United for All Ages, the UK is increasingly divided by age and generation. The UK has an ageing populace. In 2020, the over-65s numbered 12.2 million, exceeding the number of those under-18.
6,500 British employers now pay their staff the Real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour including Newcastle and Sunderland Councils. The implementation of the RLW has benefitted 1,200 city council employees. These staff are primarily based in schools or are ancillary workers, such as cleaners and cooks. Most are £1,100 better off as a result of this pay policy.
The notion that the ‘family’ no longer cares about its older kin and has abdicated its responsibilities to the state is misplaced. Pre-industrial society is often portrayed as ‘The Golden Age’ of the family and ageing, when older relatives were respected and cared for by their own families. The assumption was that people lives in ‘extended’ type families. This is a myth.
Overcoming the academic-vocational divide in the north: could University Technical Colleges (UTCs) be the answer?
UTCs working in partnership with general FE colleges, apprenticeship agencies, local councils and devolved combined authorities like North of the Tyne and Greater Manchester may be one way forward.
Falling profits, automation and the demise of heavy industry meant that the number of new jobs was shrinking in the region’s manufacturing industries. By 1981, the number of apprenticeships had halved since the mid-1960s peak, when over a quarter of male school leavers got an apprenticeship.
Pensioner poverty has been re-discovered. It’s on the increase again. Previous research conducted by Stephen McKay and Karen Rowlingson have found that older people are at a higher risk of poverty than average.
The stark reality is to many disadvantaged youngsters living in inner-city wards and the outer-council estates are trapped in over-crowded housing conditions where there’s little space to do homework. Many lack personal computers or laptops – termed ‘digital exclusion’ – a situation compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Till recently NEET young adults at the bottom of the skills employment spectrum have ‘churned’ or moved backwards and forwards between badly paid, insecure and precarious jobs – some in the informal economy and being out of work without the underlying causes being addressed.
Despite the publication of the Augar Review, the last decade has seen adult and community education being starved of resources with the virtual disappearance of ‘night-classes’. Day-time opportunities for older adults to update their skills to become plumbers or electricians have been cut to the bone. Yet, these are things that could help the older unemployed worker get back onto the jobs ladder.