Sutton Trust

Improving social mobility through education

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  3. Chairman: Sir Peter Lampl

Chairman: Sir Peter Lampl

Sir Peter LamplMy passion for social mobility comes from my own background and experiences. I am the son of a Viennese émigré and grew up in very modest circumstances in Yorkshire before moving to Surrey at age 11. After attending state schools there, I was lucky enough to get into Oxford and after completing an MBA at the London Business School I moved to Boston to work for the Boston Consulting Group.

A few years later I joined a client in New York before setting up my own firm, the Sutton Company, to get into a new field which became private equity, where over 14 years I acquired and built up many successful businesses.

What prompted me to set up the Sutton Trust in 1997 was what I found when I returned to Britain in the mid-nineties after 20 years abroad. I was shocked and appalled by what had happened to opportunities for bright children from non- privileged backgrounds.

First, I visited my old school, Reigate Grammar, which was an independent school where all the places were state-funded and free when I was there. Before state funding of independent schools was abolished in 1976, 70 per cent of independent day schools were principally state funded. Today, most of them, including my old school, charge full fees with very few free places. Along with most of my classmates, I would now be excluded on financial grounds.

Then, my Oxford college discovered I had made some money. I was invited to have lunch with the President. In my day, the college took a number of students from South Wales, all working class, most of them brilliant. The President who was Welsh himself told me it had not taken any Welsh students in the last 10 years. I wondered what would happen today to my fellow students, many of whom have gone on to be very successful.

I found out that in the 1970s, two-thirds of the entry to Oxford was from state or state funded schools and by 1997 it had dropped to 46 per cent. We had gone backwards big time. Rising inequality and a socially segregated education system had led to a decline in social mobility. What improvements there had been in education had been disproportionately gained by the better off.

I could see that the opportunities for bright children from non- privileged backgrounds were poor and had got worse. I felt I wanted to do something about it.

That’s why I set up the Sutton Trust. I was determined to do what I could to address the waste of talent in Britain. The Trust is a do-tank where we undertake research and fund projects, thoroughly evaluating them so that they can be scaled up successfully.

Since 1997, the Trust has commissioned over 140 research studies and funded over 200 programmes helping tens of thousands of young people and addressing social mobility. We’ve worked at every phase of a child and young person’s development, from the early years, through primary and secondary school, into university and the professions.

We have set up summer schools to encourage bright school students to apply to leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, and this year for the first time at Yale and other top US universities.

We have promoted Open Access admissions for independent schools on a needs blind basis and shown it can be done with great success at Belvedere School in Liverpool.

We have published some of the most influential research since the millennium, showing that social mobility in Britain declined significantly over the last 30 years.

We look not just at the British context but at the international context too, drawing on research from the US and across the developed world.

Our approach is to research the issues, fund programmes that address them, and evaluate those programmes thoroughly.

That’s the philosophy too of the Education Endowment Foundation, which the Sutton Trust set up in 2011 as the lead charity in partnership with Impetus. It is funded with £135 million from Government and is developing solutions to intractable issues of underachievement among the poorest pupils.

All this has made a difference, not least in improving university access, breaking down barriers between private and state schools, improving teacher training, and promoting more early learning for young children.

The Sutton Trust has placed social mobility at the top of the political agenda. The coalition now publishes an annual audit on progress. Our social mobility summit in May 2012 heard major speeches from Nick Clegg, Michael Gove, and Ed Miliband. This report is a celebration of just some of the projects and research we have done, and their impact.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the partners we have worked with – our grant recipients in schools, universities and charities; the academics and researchers we have commissioned; the policy-makers who have embraced our recommendations; and our supporters in other Foundations and businesses as well as individual philanthropists.

And although we have made a significant impact, there is still a huge amount to do to make Britain a more mobile society. In the years ahead, the Trust will continue to shine a light on the inequities of our education system and will support and advocate practical ways to make it fairer for non-privileged young people.