Two years ago, a report by the University and College Union revealed a Britain divided between the educational haves and have-nots.
It ranked the 632 parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales according to the percentage of working age people between 16 and 64 with no qualifications – and placed the Boston and Skegness constituency 17th from the bottom of the list.
The report has remained a benchmark since then – and now, figures from the Office of National Statistics, drawn from the annual population survey – show that nothing has changed, and place Boston at the bottom of another list … of qualifications in each of the first four educational categories from basic knowledge and skills at Level 1 to specialist learning skills and higher education qualifications at Level 4.
And sadly for us, the only area in which we lead the pack is that for people with no qualifications whatever – almost ten per-cent ahead of the county average.
At Level 1, the county figures average 83.16% across the seven district councils with Boston on 75.2%, East Lindsey at 84.7%, Lincoln 84.4%, North Kesteven 88.2%, South Holland 79.4%, South Kesteven 85.6%, and West Lindsey 84.6%.
Where people of working age without qualifications are counted, the figures are: Boston 15.8%, East Lindsey 9.8%, Lincoln 9.6%, North Kesteven 5.5%, South Holland and South Kesteven tie on 8.3% with West Lindsey at 8.5%.
The average for the county is 9.4%
The figures pile on the agony after recent statistics from the 2011 census showed that whilst Boston Borough scored high percentages in job areas such as transport and storage and agriculture – both of which are to be expected – we were well behind in areas of employment such as construction, education, finance and insurance, and information – all of which are developing elsewhere in the county.
Boston is already struggling to create enough new school places to meet the demands of our burgeoning population – but what is the outlook for youngsters after several years at the chalkface?
We’ve drawn attention before to the views of two of our most prominent citizens – MP Mark Simmonds, and council leader Pete Bedford.
When Mr Simmonds was once asked about the lack of jobs for local people, he retorted: “I meet some young people in Boston who say ‘Mark, when are you going to get all these migrants out of our town, and I say to them, ‘Well, when you’re prepared to go into the fields or the packhouses.”
And Councillor Bedford is on record as saying: “It’s the fact that our population have got to get used to the fact of starting to apply for such jobs (in the packhouses) again.”
It is impossible that Boston is uniquely unfortunate when it comes to education – our young people are as bright as any.
But it appears that whilst in other parts of the county they can turn out school-leavers with qualifications that better equip them for their working lives, in Boston, we cannot follow suit.
Is it a case that the schools lack the quality and pass their failings on to the pupils?
We need to determine the cause and rectify the problem as a matter of urgency.
Interestingly, a glance at the local election literature for next week’s Lincolnshire County Council elections shows no mention of education – which is of course a county responsibility.
It’s almost as if our local politicians are trying to imprison Boston in some agricultural dark age.
They are wrong if they think that this is doing a service for local workers.
It is inevitable that as time goes by, the fields and the packhouses will become increasingly mechanised – in the way that farming changed beyond recognition after the Second World War when tractors and combines brought an end to the centuries-old practices of ploughing, sowing and harvesting by hand.
And what will our so-called leaders have to say then, as hundreds of local jobs vanish?
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