When Louise Gibson was a child growing up in North Wales four decades ago, the concept of social mobility was, to her, a very simple one. Gibson’s family was based in Connah’s Quay, a small community which relied heavily on the steelworks, with whole family economies based on the work they provided. When they closed, the town was hit hard.
“My parents and their parents before them were working class, and they would often say proudly so,” she says. “For them, and so for me as a child, social mobility was about having a better lifestyle than the previous generation. That translated into earning more, having a bigger house, not working in a manual labour job, getting qualifications.”
So Gibson’s parents championed education as the route to a better life, and she worked hard at school, describing herself as excelling academically. Both she and her parents saw there could be a path away from working on factory production lines, and that path was cleared by education: first A-Levels, then university, and finally an “office-based job”. She shared her parents’ desire for her to break away from the small Welsh town in which her life began. In her words: “I couldn’t see opportunities there which matched my ambitions.”
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