House of Lords Library

Social Mobility

Published Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This House of Lords Library Briefing contains a selection of material relevant for the forthcoming question for short debate on Social Mobility on 29 January 2020.

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In April 2019, the Social Mobility Commission published its State of the Nation 2018–19 report. It found that social mobility had “stagnated” over the last four years at “virtually all stages from birth to work”. It made several recommendations including:

  • The 30-hour childcare offer should be extended by lowering the lower income limit of eligibility.
  • The Government should commission a review into whether pupil premium funding is effectively targeted at supporting disadvantaged students.
  • The Government should introduce a student premium for disadvantaged students aged 16–19.
  • UCAS, the Office for Students, and universities should develop a simple system which displays all financial support (bursaries, scholarships and ad-hoc funds) available to undergraduates alongside the eligibility criteria.
  • Universities should make greater use of contextualised offers: the applicant’s background is considered as part of the admissions process.
  • The Government should provide concentrated investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure in areas of low social mobility and low pay.
  • The Government should “lead the way in being model employers” by becoming accredited voluntary living wage employers.

Theresa May’s Conservative Government welcomed the report. It stated that social mobility was a “top priority across government” and it had taken “great strides to improve it”. In June 2019, the Government announced that it had asked the commission to launch a £2 million research and evidence fund to identify and spread best practice.

In November 2019, ahead of the 2019 general election, the Sutton Trust published its mobility manifesto. It set out a series of policies “designed to address issues affecting low levels of mobility” and “widen access” to education and employment opportunities. It contained ten “top” recommendations:

  • The government should review early education provision and eligibility for 30 hours of free childcare.
  • State school admissions should ensure a “better social mix” across the system with consideration given to ballots and priority for disadvantaged students.
  • Independent schools should be “opened up” on a voluntary basis to pupils from all backgrounds.
  • The government should establish a fund to support young people with high academic potential in state schools, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • State schools should develop essential life skills in their students with time allocated for their development through the curriculum and extracurricular activities.
  • A focus on increasing degree and higher-level apprenticeships.
  • Contextual admissions should be used by more highly-selective universities to open up access to students from less privileged backgrounds.
  • Post Qualification Applications (PQA) to universities should be implemented to allow young people to make a choice based on their actual rather than predicted grades.
  • Maintenance grants for students should be restored.
  • The government should ban unpaid internships, ensuring that after four weeks interns are always paid the minimum wage, or preferably the living wage.

It called on the next government to put social mobility at the “heart of their agenda”.

In its 2019 general election manifesto, the Conservative Party said that a Conservative Government would “unite and level up, spreading opportunity across the whole United Kingdom”. The manifesto included commitments to invest in schools, further education and skills training, and in infrastructure.

Lords Library notes LLN-2020-0024

Author: Sarah Tudor

Topics: Adult education, Employment schemes, Further education, Higher education, Pre-school education, Schools

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