SOUTHEND pupils could be offered more careers advice as fewer go to university than almost anywhere in the country.

The town has the jointninth worst education authority in the country for sending young people to university, with pupils in some London boroughs almost twice as likely to go on to higher education.

Just more than four in ten Southend pupils go on to university, new figures show, compared to half in Thurrock and the rest of Essex.

Anne Jones, who became Southend councillor responsible for children and learning when the new joint administration took over last month, warned against overreacting to the figures, but pledged to ensure children and parents have enough information to make the best choice for them.

She said: “The new joint administration is building on the work started by the previous administration to work with primary schools to make sure that all families and children have the opportunity and the choice to access the best schools and get the best qualifications.

“A cross-party group devised the seven-point pledge to make this happen.

“I do want to expand on the work we do with careers guidance teams who talk and advise children and their parents about the pathway and options available to them for A-Levels and beyond, and build on the work we already do on school admissions.

“Part of this guidance is to discuss higher education and apprenticeship options. Our education strategy also aims to include all those from less affluent backgrounds and give them the best opportunities and choice.”

The Labour councillor for Kursaal and Conservative James Courtenay, her predecessor as councillor responsible for children and learning, both stressed the importance of vocational qualifications.

Mrs Jones added: “The academic route is not necessarily for everyone, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with people making a vocational choice.

“Southend, and Essex as a whole, is well known for its entrepreneurialism and the council offers a number of apprenticeship opportunities across the organisation which mean young people can get paid whilst getting Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications.”

Mr Courtenay said: “People shouldn’t go to university for the sake of going to university, but I don’t think we should be in the bottom ten local authorities.”