Middlesborough, Blackpool and Manchester are the worst areas to be born a girl in England and Wales, while Waverley in Surrey is the best.
That’s according to a new report, which ranked the best and worst places to be a girl in England and Wales – and showed that where a girl is born can have a profound impact on her quality of life.
The study, produced by Plan International UK in collaboration with the University of Hull, analysed data from local authorities across England and Wales. Researchers also conducted interviews with over 100 girls and young women to try and gain a clearer picture of the issues affecting girls today.
They discovered a stark geographic divide. The south-east of England, particularly Surrey, performs the best, while inner-city areas tend to perform poorly.
The 10 worst local authority areas to be a girl in England and Wales
- Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
- Blackpool, Lancashire
- Knowsley, Merseyside
- Hastings, East Sussex
- Kingston upon Hull
- Salford, Greater Manchester
- Sandwell, West Midlands
The 10 best local authority areas to be a girl in England and Wales
- Waverley, Surrey
- Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire
- Chiltern, Buckinghamshire
- Mole Valley, Surrey
- Epsom and Ewell, Surrey
- Rutland, East Midlands
- Elmbridge, Surrey
- Wokingham, Berkshire
- St Albans, Hertfordshire
- East Hertforshire
How can they tell?
Researchers assessed girls’ quality of life by comparing all local authority areas in England and Wales. They were looking at five points: childhood poverty levels, life expectancy, teenage conception rates, GCSE results and the percentage of girls under 18 not in employment, education or training.
It was found that girls experience major discrepancies in quality of life depending on where they live.
Girls born between 2012 and 2014 in Chiltern in Buckinghamshire, for example, have a life expectancy of 86.7 years. In contrast, girls born during the same time period in Middlesbrough can only expect to live to 79.8 on average.
Teenage pregnancy rates also change drastically as you move around the country. In Tamworth in Staffordshire, more than 40 girls out of every 1,000 aged under 18 became pregnant in 2013. That figure was just 7.6 per 1,000 in St Albans in Hertfordshire.
“Our research found that overall the UK is failing girls,” said Lucy Russell, the UK girls’ rights campaign manager for Plan International UK and lead author on the study. “It’s clear that despite being one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, girls don’t have equal rights and equal life chances across the UK.”
Some issues facing girls today, such as regional poverty, are measurable – but Russell said that other serious problems are less quantifiable, from gender stereotyping at school to sexual and online harassment.
However, Russell said that the girls interviewed for the report had been clear about the problems they faced.
“What we’ve heard from girls in our research is that girls are facing daily harassment in school – in the classroom and on the way to and from school,” she says.
“They need to use technology, but they don’t always feel safe to do that. They’re scared every day on the street, they have certain things they don’t do and places they don’t go.”
Research published in August showed that the number of sex offences in schools being reported to police has almost trebled in four years. More than 20% of British women say that they experienced sexual assault or harassment at school, while a report published by the Terrence Higgins Trust in July highlighted that sex and relationships education is still inadequate or absent in many schools.
Plan International UK is calling for girls’ committees to be set up in schools, mandatory sex and relationship education, and more cross-department government working to address the problems highlighted in the report.
A spokesperson for the government says: “We are committed to building a country that works for everyone – no girl should be held back in life just because of her gender or where she lives.”