Education & Family

Norwegian school funds UK youth charity

St Paul school
Image caption The pupils from Bergen are going to raise funds for young people in the UK

A school in Norway is raising funds to support a UK charity working to improve social mobility.

Deborah Streatfield, founder of the MyBigCareer charity, said it seemed "absurd" to depend on a handout from another western European country.

The charity works to improve careers advice and to widen job opportunities for deprived youngsters.

Johann Falkenberg from St Paul school in Bergen said it was "important to help" people wherever they lived.

MyBigCareer is a charity that aims to "break down barriers to social mobility".

As a recent example, Mrs Streatfield says, it supported young people by paying £5 or £10 to help with travel fares for an open day for medicine courses.

The charity recently highlighted cost barriers to careers, such as a hospital charging £500 a week for young people wanting work experience to help with their applications to become doctors.

"We started with nothing and sadly cannot help more students unless we obtain more funding," said Mrs Streatfield.

'Shocked'

But teachers in Norway, who met Mrs Streatfield on a visit to London, are now organising fundraising events, such as a concert and cake sales, with the aim of raising several thousand pounds.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The school in Bergen will stage a fundraising concert to help the charity

Mr Falkenberg says the UK's debate about a lack of social mobility is not familiar to Norwegians.

"It's not a problem here," he said.

But he said teachers and pupils visiting London had been "really shocked to see that some children do not have the right books or have to borrow clothes for school or can't cook themselves a meal".

The school is going to support the charity as part of its Helping Others project.

Mrs Streatfield said: "It does seem absurd that although our current work is focused in England, we are relying on western European countries to help the UK.

"We are beyond grateful for the support from Norway which will facilitate our growth and reach."

'Bleak' prospects

A seminar on social mobility in the UK, to be held at the London School of Economics on Thursday, will hear that too little progress is being made.

It will be addressed by Prof Stephen Machin, research director of the Centre for Economic Performance and author of a landmark report in 2005 highlighting the lack of social mobility.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The charity wants to help young people apply to competitive careers such as medicine

Prof Machin will say that a decade later there are few signs of improvement, and in some cases the problem is getting worse.

"The UK's low level of social mobility is not just a problem for those from poor families - it's a problem for the economy too. The large number of young people who are not able to reach their full potential is a tragic waste of talent," says Prof Machin.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust education charity, which aims to improve social mobility, says: "We need to think radically about how to break the UK's cycle of low social mobility.

"We must build better access to our top universities and ensure internships are paid and advertised. Otherwise the prospects for improved social mobility will remain bleak for future generations," says Sir Peter, who will also speak at the seminar.

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