'Two Britains' qualifications gap emerges in study

Road sign Many of the places with the best-educated adults are in London and the south

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There are huge local variations in levels of education within Britain's adult population, reveals an analysis published by a lecturers' union.

It shows "two Britains" divided by a wide educational gulf, says the University and College Union.

In the Glasgow North East constituency 35% of adults have no qualifications, compared to only 1.9% in Brent North.

The government said children from the poorest backgrounds had been "short-changed for generations".

Social divide

The UCU analysis shows that in some southern constituencies it has become very unusual not to have qualifications - while in parts of the West Midlands it remains widespread.

There are more people without qualifications in Birmingham Hodge Hill than in Cambridge, Winchester, Wimbledon, Buckingham, Romsey, Leeds North West and four other constituencies put together.

Unqualified Britain map

Sally Hunt, the UCU's general secretary, warned of a deep social divide.

"Education is central to our country's future, yet in some areas thousands of people still have no qualifications.

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said she hoped the analysis would start a discussion and a debate

"There is a real danger that children, growing up in places where it is not unheard of to have no qualifications, will have their ambition blunted and never realise their full potential."

The figures from the Office for National Statistics, and analysed by the lecturers' union, show the percentages of people aged between the ages of 16 and 64 without any qualifications in parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales, up to December 2010.

It reveals concentrations of low educational achievement - including parts of Glasgow, Birmingham, Derby and Bradford, where more than a quarter of the adult population is without a single qualification.

National differences

The lowest-achieving region for education is identified as the West Midlands - with 26 out of 29 seats in the area below the national average in terms of the proportion of adults without qualifications.


  • Glasgow North East
  • Birmingham Hodge Hill
  • Bradford West
  • Glasgow East
  • Derby South
  • Liverpool Walton
  • Birmingham Ladywood
  • Glasgow South West
  • Motherwell and Wishaw
  • Birmingham Hall Green

Source: UCU

Many of the areas with the best-educated workforces are in London and the South East. In places such as Wimbledon and Winchester, only about one in 40 of working-age adults does not have a qualification.

The union also identifies London as being a "city full of contrasts", with big differences in areas that are geographically side by side. For instance, Hackney South has twice as many unqualified residents as Hackney North.

The country's best-educated population, by this measure, is Brent North, in the Wembley area of north-west London, where more than 98% of adults have a qualification.

Many of the lowest educational results in the London region are in the east of capital.

Barking, Ilford South, Romford, Hornchurch, Walthamstow, West Ham and East Ham are all in the lowest-achieving group of London seats.

There were also differences between countries in Britain: England had the best record, followed by Scotland and then Wales.

The lecturers' union says that this map of achievement and underachievement underlines the importance of improving access to education.

And it says that it shows the coalition government has been wrong to increase university tuition fees and to scrap education maintenance allowances.

The Department for Education said it was targeting reforms at children who needed most support - including increasing the number of academies, using the pupil premium to give schools money to spend on the poorest children, and "stripping away poor qualifications".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    It's a combination of factors I think. Parents who don't care, schools with rubbish teachers and the attitude of the child themselves. Kids have an interest in everything around them but that is some how squeezed out of them as they grow up so you end up with the X-factor generation. The trick is is to stop yourself from being influanced by it and keep your natural interest in subjects you like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    These stats from the ONS, need to be compared with the last Census, a decade ago, to help analyse, understand and make sense of this information. There are no apparent basic demographics, for example?

    Furthermore, a parent's poor literacy/numeracy need to be addressed, and not be a stigma, as this often perpetuates a viscous cycle. Children need intensive basics in the early years to thrive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    nieuw divil It's equally a valid argument that ripping the industrial backbone out of much of the north under Thatcher has left in some areas an under-class who rely on benefits and see no point in education, or any sort of work ethic.
    Incidentally, I don't care for The Labour Party much either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Tony, you write a great deal of sense. I'm from the north east too. Twenty years ago it was quite common place for working class kids, myself included, to realise the value of an education, get themselves educated then head south because the job prospects were so much better there. I imagine it was ever thus
    nieuw divil Despite being pretty capable & aspirational I've never voted Tory in my life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    On the contrary nieuw divil, your assertion is entirely specious. This is nothing to do with political allegiance, but is all to do with the movement of labour to areas favoured as headquarters of large multinational companies. I have three highly qualified, and high earning sons. None of them live in the North East where they were born and brought up. All of the are based in the South.


Comments 5 of 218


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