Impact and Influence

Impact and Influence 2016-03-24T14:55:02+00:00

The Sutton Trust has had a significant impact since 1997. Below is the the impact we’ve had to date;

Social Mobility

The Trust has pushed social mobility to the top of the political agenda. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2010 – 2015) introduced annual social mobility indicators to Government. Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed the former cabinet minister Alan Milburn to investigate fair access to the professions in 2009. The coalition government has since made him its social mobility tsar.

These moves reflect the importance placed on the issue by the political parties. While the Trust has succeeded in focusing the public debate on social mobility, and achieving a degree of political consensus on its importance as an issue, the challenge is to turn this consensus into more radical approaches in the early years, schools, and university admissions.

University Admissions

With university summer schools, the Sutton Trust helped make the issue of access to universities an important part of Government policy. As Education Secretary, David Blunkett drew on the Sutton Trust model to develop summer schools to encourage young people from poorer backgrounds to go into higher education. Between 2003-04 and 2007-08, 41,000 young people attended 1,350 government-funded summer schools. In 2013, Cambridge University announced that 63 percent of its students came from state schools, up from 52 per cent in 1997. Since 1997, the number of state school students admitted to our leading 13 universities has increased from 16,900 to 22,675 in 2012/13.

Open Access

Ninety leading independent day schools have so far declared they would back such a state-funded Open Access scheme, which would benefit more than 30,000 able students. These include King Edwards Birmingham, Manchester Grammar, St Paul’s and Westminster School. The Trust helped create Independent State School Partnerships, which it co-funded with the Department for Education in 1998. An Ofsted evaluation in 2005 concluded that the programme was a valuable and cost-effective way to develop relationships between the two school sectors. The independent-state school debate has also led governments to encourage some independent schools to sponsor academies or free schools. However, without a national Open Access scheme, access to the best private day schools will remain based on money not merit.

Early Years

Following our research looking into gaps in cognitive attainment between rich and poor school age children we made a strong case for narrowing these gaps by focusing on the expansion of nursery places for children from age two from the most disadvantaged homes. We argued that plans to extend the existing number of free nursery education hours each week for all three and four year olds should focus on intensive support for two to four year olds from the 15 per cent most disadvantaged families. Since September 2013, the coalition has provided 15 hours a week of early learning to disadvantaged two year-olds, in addition to three and four year-olds. Now, the Trust is making the case for a much better-qualified early years workforce. In partnership with Impetus, we are investing £3 million over five years in organisations that contribute to narrowing the gap in school readiness.


The Sutton Trust has played an important role in the development of Teach First since its inception. Sir Peter Lampl first introduced Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, to government policymakers, and later recommended that the Teach First programme be extended to primary schools. Our Teach Primary report argued that primary schools serving poorer communities should have the same opportunities as secondary schools to recruit high calibre graduates. The coalition’s first education White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, announced plans to extend Teach First to primary schools and to develop a new employment based route to attract talented professionals with strong academic records and interpersonal skills. In 2011 84 Teach First graduates were officially placed in primary schools and Teach First announced a new primary-focused training programme.

Pupil Destinations and Admissions

The Department for Education’s decision to publish national data on pupil destinations for the first time, as part of the Government’s transparency agenda, reflected a Sutton Trust recommendation in a 2010 report designed to ensure that less privileged pupils benefit from the Coalition Government’s school reforms. In July 2012, the Government published tables showing what happened to young people from every state school, college, and local authority. The new measure shows the destinations of pupils after leaving school, whether they enter higher education, apprenticeships, or the workplace.

At the same time, the admissions code allowed individual schools that were their own admissions authorities – including faith schools, foundation schools, and academies – to use ballots for admissions, and a number of urban schools are now doing so.

Many grammar schools also plan to give priority in admissions to pupils on free school meals who pass their admissions tests.

Access to the Professions

Alan Milburn was commissioned by Labour and the coalition governments to look at access and social mobility. In his 2012 report, Alan Milburn said that the legal sector was making real efforts to address fair access and social mobility. Within the legal profession there is now considerable support for the Pathways to Law programme. The programme was initially launched with the support of Cherie Booth QC, and has enjoyed the consistent backing of the Law Society and the Bar Council. More recently, more than 80 law firms have backed PRIME, a programme supported by the Sutton Trust and the Law Society, to provide quality work experience for disadvantaged young people.

Our work is now expanding to include other professions, including Medicine, Law and Accountancy.

What Works Network

The Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation have been jointly designated by the Government as a What Works Centre for their commitment to evaluating the effectiveness of educational interventions. Other What Works Centres include NICE and the Early Invervention Foundation.