Today #GrowingUpNorth was launched at the BBC, Media City Salford with Alice Webb, Director of BBC North, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England and me along with some great local pupils who’d made a terrific video on the subject.

Growing Up North seeks to understand how growing up in particular areas impacts on the chances of a child and how best to support children through the education system into a job.

This review will be led by Anne Longfield, accompanied by an Advisory Board, of which I’m one. And it’s timely, seeking to align and capitalise on the changes happening in the north, from devolution to the development of the Northern Powerhouse to massive infrastructural investment and increasing employment.
I made this short speech before a longer Q&A session ensued, as it is a complicated picture, and sometimes a conflicting picture. To see the statistics go to www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

I loved growing up in the North
I know no different
I think about what the North gave me, not what it didn’t.

Today is not about wanting special dispensation,
Not about wanting to change my background or my sense of belonging.

It isn’t a moan-fest
Nor is it about rose-tinted spectacles and the way things were.

Today, and Growing Up North, is about seizing the moment.
Analysing the complicated sets of educational and career path data
Most of all it’s about aligning the forthcoming opportunities of the north with our children’s future.

It’s about maximising the potential of an area,
About seeing the value in a place,
and seeing the value in each person.

What with devolution, the push of the Northern Powerhouse, massive infrastructure investment and a shift to a world facing UK in the new Brexit age, we need to link up the north, harness its brains and drive, and build an international powerbase.

It’s not a blank canvass to create a new start, for we have a great history from which to build.
But it is a new canvass to shape and craft for the area and its children.

I’m delighted to be asked to speak at this launch and join this advisory panel as I’ve worked with school pupils for the last 15 years providing career support and advice, through books, workshops and touring plays with the wonderful National Youth Theatre. I even went back to University to write a thesis on the traits of successful people, focusing on social mobility, centred on people like me, from my area (inner city) offering a template to other kids from similar backgrounds.

The work set the scene for much of my work which followed on role models, a kind of A to Z on how to get to where you want to go to in life. I always say if you wanted to travel to Glasgow you wouldn’t just jump in a car and start driving you’d put the postcode in your sat nav – well the same is true in life, where do you want to go? Find a similar journey, follow but personalise, so it’s your life, your skills but aided along the way by others’ advice and support.

From the thousands upon thousands of pupils I have met, confidence is key. Confidence and belief in yourself and extending that to confidence in your area.

Knowing what is possible and what’s available to you in your area.

We all need optimism, buoyancy, not negative talking down.

So launching today’s Growing Up North is about making sure opportunities meet preparedness. Mapping the future of the north and how it links to the future for the people who live in there, and preparing the local children for the opportunities that are coming their way but which they need to pick up, embrace, shape and grow.

  • Mark Harwood
    Posted at 11:02h, 16 December Reply

    Be interesting to ask your MP colleagues Esther about how many Sure Start Children’s Centres have closed in their areas since 2010? How Child Poverty has increased since 2010? And as for Social Mobility?

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