Calling us the worst doesn't help us. Telling girls in our area you are more likely to fall pregnant, be poor and fail in school doesn't help us. I know plenty of girls from Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas who are at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and plenty of other russell group universities. I also know girls who are doing amazing well on apprenticeships in a wide variety of fields inside our amazing local industries and businesses.
I know there are issue in Middlesbrough but there are issues everywhere. We have amazing educational facilities, amazing opportunities and a motto we will live up to; Erimus - we shall be. Being from Middlesbrough means you can be anything, no doors are closed to you. You can go to university. You can go and work in industry. You can make it onto a national TV show every morning - just look at Steph McGovern.
I was educated at a normal state school, a normal college and I'm from a normal family. And i'm proudly writing this from my university accommodation in Leeds about to start my BA in Politics. Am I abnormal? No. Thousands of young people (a lot of them girls) left Middlesbrough in the last few weeks after 15 years of education to go to university. Others stayed behind after gain apprenticeships or further education inside the area. Yes there are a few girls who have had babies young, they still go to college, university and work. They are not on the scrap heap waiting to be handed dole money. Thats not what they want for their children. Having children at 16, 17, 18 may not be for everyone but I have the upmost respect for those that do and continue to thrive in their chosen career paths.
Adele Parks is a writer and has sold more than 1.5 million books and was born in Eaglescliffe. Kat Copeland is an olympic rower and won a gold medal and was born in Ingleby Barwick. Preeti Desai is former Miss Great Britain and was born in Middlesbrough. Kate Fearnley was voted Ultimate Fashion Entrepreneur of the year in 2009 and was born in Middlesbrough. Steph McGovern is the BBC Breakfast Business correspondent and was born in Middlesbrough. Hilda Eastwood founded Leukaemia research which has raised over £350 million for research into blood cancer and was born in Middlesbrough. This is just a small list of the amazing achievements of some women from Middlesbrough.
Being the worst on this list created by Plan International UK is not good for our community. Why would girls aspire to be better to have their dreams torn down by statistics and on subjective experiences. Who would want to be proud of coming from "the worst home town for girls in the UK". If girls here that they are more likely than any other girls in the country to fail in school, to fall pregnant and to be poor why would they strive to pass their GCSEs or to get into university?
Its silly to suggest we don't have issues with poverty, GCSE results, individuals that meet the criteria to be classified as NEET and teenage pregnancy rates but what area doesn't? You cannot tell me that some town in Surrey doesn't have issues with any of those factors. But in Middlesbrough we have one thing. We are proud smoggies. Proud of our heritage and our hometown and no results from a list is going to dampen our spirits. Because if we are known for one thing it is bouncing back in times of austerity, hardship and when the southerners look down on us. There will be no scrambling inside any government department to send any help our way, not at least until they've selected parliamentary candidates. We must do as we have always done and be the change we want to see.