The Coalition has embarked on a renewed drive to improve social mobility, with schools it seems, at the forefront. A couple of weeks ago, an all-party group of MPs highlighted the importance of school performance in a report outlining ‘7 key truths about social mobility’ while last week Michael Gove tackled the issue of the ‘old school tie’ in a thought provoking speech at Brighton College and this week Nick Clegg headed to a high-performing inner city primary school to announce some extra bonuses under the pupil premium scheme
Social mobility is not a new concern, the previous administration put a lot of effort into tackling access both into higher education and the professions and the present government has made social mobility a major driver behind many of its education reforms. But as a recent report from the OECD has indicated, the UK continues to lag behind many other countries in this area with disadvantage defining prospects from a very early age. As Michael Gove noted in his speech, “at age seven, the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers is already 11% in maths.” Few, it seems ever catch up, hence the emphasis on closing the gap
‘Seven key truths about social mobility’
This was the title of a recent report from a group of MPs and builds on work being undertaken as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. This is tracking the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000/01. It’s already published milestone data as the children reached the ages of 9 months, 3, 5 and 7 respectively and is due to complete its age 11 survey this year. The 7 factors it identified as determining social mobility include: development between the ages of 0 and 3; the nature of education attainment; quality of teaching; out of school participation; entry to HE; increased pathways; and emotional wellbeing. Progress, the MPs noted, is needed in each
What did Michael Gove have to say?
Citing names rather than statistics, Michael Gove highlighted how many positions in public life are taken by those who have benefitted from a private education and what the Coalition was doing to try and change things. Phonics ‘checks,’ the EBacc, new floor targets, academies, all developed, he argued, to ensure that the benefits associated with a high quality education were available to all. And he claimed: “there are now more than 440 secondary schools where the average GCSE point scores is higher for disadvantaged pupils than it is for all pupils”
And what did Nick Clegg announce?
As the ‘guardian’ of the pupil premium, Nick Clegg used his speech to announce some further developments. Not only are summer schools being introduced this year to help ease the transition from primary to secondary for disadvantaged kids, ‘2,100 applications and counting,’ and the premium being uplifted but from next year, the government will hand out cash prizes of up to £10,000 for 50 schools who’ve managed to raise the performance of disadvantaged pupils the most. Not ring-fenced but accountable through inspection reporting
Head of Policy (UK and International)
Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning