INTERACTIVE MAP: Census data shows Stoke-on-Trent education 'brain drain'
STOKE-ON-TRENT has the sixth highest proportion of unqualified people in the country, census data has revealed.
While the number of adults in the city with at least one GCSE has increased over the last 10 years, Stoke-on-Trent is still close to bottom of the class in England and Wales.
Census 2011 data shows there are 67,773 adults in Stoke-on-Trent with no qualifications, which equates to 33.8 per cent of the adult population.
This figure is down from 42.9 per cent in 2001, as a result of more young people in the city leaving school with qualifications.
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But Stoke-on-Trent is still lagging behind the rest of the country, with only five places having proportionally more unqualified people, which was also the case 10 years ago.
Sandwell is the only place in the West Midlands with a higher percentage of unqualified people.
The proportion of unqualified people is 26.8 per cent in Newcastle; 26.6 per cent in Staffordshire Moorlands; 20.4 per cent in Stafford; and 19.6 per cent in Cheshire East. The average for England and Wales is 22.7 per cent.
The expansion of higher education over the last decade has seen the proportion of people in Stoke-on-Trent with degrees rise from 9.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent.
But this leaves the city ranked just 338th out of 348 local authority areas in terms of the proportion of degree-educated people.
This summer's GCSE results saw the number of school leavers in Stoke-on-Trent achieving at least five A* to C passes rise to 51.3 per cent, an increase of 3.1 per cent on last year.
There have been a myriad of schemes to raise educational achievement in Stoke-on-Trent over the last decade.
They include Stoke Speaks Out, which has focused on improving young children's speech and language skills.
It has revolved around training up thousands of professionals and parents, so they can build language opportunities into their work with children on a daily basis.
One of the other strengths in Stoke-on-Trent has been vocational education.
It has ranged from offering BTEC courses in secondary schools through to launching a new generation of schools specialising in work-related learning called studio schools.
But efforts to encourage more adults back into learning have been hampered by financial cutbacks in the further education sector.
Across the country as a whole the number of students reaching the national standard fell for the first time, perhaps indicating that Stoke-on-Trent is beginning to catch up with other areas.
Tristram Hunt, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, above left, said it important to stop the 'brain drain' by keeping those people with qualifications in the city.
Mr Hunt: "I think what the census shows is that the transition that Stoke-on-Trent is going through is going to be a long and tough process. The jobs of yesterday are no longer available, and so if we are going to be competitive and raise living standards we have to focus on education and skills.
"One thing we need to do is make sure there are jobs for graduates in the area. We need to make sure that the students coming out of Keele, Staffordshire University and Manchester Metropolitan University have opportunities for them locally, so they don't move to places such as Manchester or Birmingham.
"Any jobs are welcome, but I think the challenge for the city is to make our way up the value chain. And there have been steps in that direction, with pottery and engineering firms creating more high-skilled jobs. But it is a problem that the council does not have a director of education in post."
Stoke-on-Trent's low educational attainment levels are also reflected in the composition of the city's workforce.
The city has proportionally fewer managers and professionals than most other places, while it ranks ninth in terms of the proportion of people in unskilled 'elementary occupations'.
Sara Williams, chief executive of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, pictured right, said a lack of qualifications among the populace was a problem for business.
According to the chamber's most recent quarterly employment survey, 37 per cent of firms in the area were trying to recruit, but 24 per cent were experiencing difficulties finding candidates with the right skills and qualifications.
Ms Williams said: "The most worrying thing is that we are the sixth worst area of the country for people with no qualifications at all. The implication is that these people are leaving school with no numeracy or literacy skills. That really does limit people's opportunities. We do find that businesses are having trouble recruiting people with the right skills. Companies such as Goodwin and Dudson are setting up their own apprenticeship programmes in order to take the matter into their own hands.
"In terms of people with degrees, we do have two universities in North Staffordshire which are working hard to improve the situation."
Councillor Dave Conway, chairman of the children and young people's overview and scrutiny committee at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said schools were working hard to improve attainment levels.
He said: "It seems that we are stuck with these poor figures, but I know that school governors, headteachers and staff are all doing their best to improve things for our young people. It doesn't help when unemployment is high, and children's parents are out of work. Everyone is working hard to improve the situation, but it will take time."
Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Alan Dutton said: "We are fully aware and have identified the challenges that face us. That's why, through Mandate for Change we are working hard to redesign services to help people reaching their full potential. We are continuing to drive performance despite a background of severe Government cutbacks.
"We have completed five out of the 13 secondary schools and five special schools being remodelled through our £265m Building Schools for the Future programme, increased primary school capacity by over 1,200 new places and enabled 540 children and young people with complex needs to access specialist educational provision in their own community.
"But we recognise that buildings alone are not going to give us the desired outcomes. We will only achieve better attainment through effective parenting, excellent teaching in schools and effective leadership. An early years review is currently underway to drive up Key Stage 1 results."