Author: Stephen Lambert

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Are English grammar schools the engines of social mobility?

Stephen Lambert

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

Stephen Lambert

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.

Are we still a nation of homeowners?

Stephen Lambert

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%.

Is religion dying out?

Stephen Lambert

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.

Homelessness is blighting the north of England – a radical housing programme could alleviate it

Stephen Lambert

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.

Private schools lie at the root of the UK’s inequality

Stephen Lambert

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”.

Forget fraud: it’s getting people to vote that counts

Stephen Lambert

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.

A renaissance of affordable homes is needed in the North East

Stephen Lambert

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.

Resisting the far right in the North East

Stephen Lambert

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.

The UK’s political generation gap is bigger than ever

Stephen Lambert

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.

A real living wage is good for both North East workers and employers

Stephen Lambert

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 welfare state’s forgotten army?

Stephen Lambert

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.

Revisiting the Youth Training Scheme in the North East

Stephen Lambert

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.

To have and have not: the north’s growing education class divide

Stephen Lambert

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.

Finished at 55?

Stephen Lambert

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.

Why mental health should be a regional and national priority

Stephen Lambert

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists people with no history of mental ill-health are developing serious psychological problems for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Many are worried over job insecurity, social isolation and relationship breakdown. One in 10 children has a diagnosable mental health problem. There’s a compelling moral and economic case for dealing with mental ill-health among teenagers.

Is Britain returning to the Great Depression of the 1930s?

Stephen Lambert

Maconie argues that, 80 -years on, we’re going back to 1930s depression, deepening inequality in material condition and the growth of radical-right populism. It can’t be denied that we’re seeing a widening gulf between the north and south of England. Just as disturbing, we appear to be witnessing a big gap opening up between the cosmopolitan core cities of Manchester and Newcastle and nearby urban post-industrial and coastal towns where’s there much discussion about the ‘white working-class’ becoming marginalised, angry, left out and left-behind.