Watts admits school results not enough to boost social mobility – but hailed Islington’s education turnaround

Islington Council Leader Richard Watts. Photograph: Islington Council

Council Leader Richard Watts has said Islington Council was wrong in believing good school results alone would boost social mobility.

But he hailed the council’s record on education and policies for young people in Labour’s manifesto for the local elections on 3 May.

Cllr Watts, who was elected Council Leader in 2013, was reflecting on Labour’s record in office during a recent interview with the Islington Citizen.

“I really strongly believe that if it’s not good enough for my kids, it’s not good enough for anyone’s”, said Cllr Watts, who is also a former executive member for children and families.

He said the council’s education policies have seen Islington go from being in the bottom 20 in the country for GCSE results in 2010 to now being in the top 20.

“That’s a massive shift in anyone’s estimation”, he said.

But Cllr Watts admitted that the council’s belief that better education alone would curb inequality turned out to be wrong.

“If I’m honest, eight years ago we thought that driving up English and Maths results would make the difference in social mobility”, he said.

“And while it is a necessary step, it’s not done it on its own.”

Cllr Watts said this overlooked the “informal networks” which give some people advantages, and said the council is planning more work experience for secondary school pupils, and mentoring “to get working class kids applying for the best universities in the country”.

He said Islington’s Labour Group is also proposing “universal music tuition” and will continue providing free school meals for primary school pupils.