Our mission

Social mobility in Britain has stagnated. The opportunities open to a child from a disadvantaged background today are strongly linked to how much their parents earn.

Since 1997 and under the leadership of our founder, Sir Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust has worked to address this. We fight for social mobility from birth to the workplace so that every young person – no matter who their parents are, what school they go to, or where they live – has the chance to succeed in life.

In order to leverage what we do, we work in partnership with the UK’s and the US’ leading universities and other organisations.

Our Programmes

Our programmes support 5,000 high-attaining young people each year, helping them to realise their aspirations.

Our Research

Our agenda-setting research identifies the root causes of low social mobility and promotes effective solutions through education and employment.

Our Policy Work

Our policy work keeps social mobility at the top of the national agenda and affects systemic change by influencing decision makers.

Our Alumni

Our alumni community brings together everyone who has been through our programmes since 1997, so they can access support and inspire change.

Our Story

The Sutton Trust was founded by Sir Peter Lampl in 1997.

The son of a Viennese émigré who came to Britain in the 30s, Peter attended grammar school and went on to study at Oxford.  After a successful career in private equity, Peter returned to the UK in the mid-90s. Through visiting his old school and former college, he was struck by decline in educational opportunities open to someone from his background.

Peter wanted to do something to change this. In 1997 the Sutton Trust was formed and ran its first summer school in partnership with Oxford. 64 seventeen-year-olds from schools which Oxford had never heard from spent a week experiencing life as an undergraduate, attending lectures, seminars, and social events. Sixteen out of 64 got in to Oxford and many of them went onto other leading universities.

Since then we’ve worked intensively with over 30,000 young people and given them the opportunity to change their lives.  We’ve published over 200 pieces of agenda-setting research, many of which have influenced government policy.

Our work has put social mobility firmly on the map and established the Sutton Trust as the leading organisation in the social mobility space in the UK.

Our Mission Statement

The Sutton Trust champions social mobility from birth to the workplace so that all young people have the chance to succeed in life. We do this through evidence-led programmes, agenda-setting research and policy influence.

Our Cause

Social mobility is about whether you are able to improve upon the economic and social position that you were born into. High levels of social mobility mean that people from all backgrounds are able to succeed in life. It’s crucial for creating a fairer society, fostering social cohesion and boosting economic growth.

Yet social mobility in Britain has stagnated. For a child born in the UK today, their life chances and educational opportunities are strongly linked to their parents’ background. Those born to high-earning parents are more likely to end up going to the best universities and getting top jobs later in life. At the other end of the scale, those from lower income families have less access to opportunities to move on.

Put simply, if an opportunity exists, we believe it should be equally open to those from lower income homes as their wealthier peers.

Low social mobility is arguably the biggest social issue we face. We must take concerted action now.

Impact and Influence

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

We were instrumental in putting social mobility on the political agenda with our landmark study with the London School of Economics in 2005 which found that social mobility in Britain was lower than other advanced countries and was also in decline. In 2017, we published new research on social mobility at a major summit to mark 20 years of the Trust.

Our research into the educational backgrounds of leading people in the country prompted government investigation into fair access into the professions in 2009, and led to the establishment of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The work of the Trust also triggered the creation of annual social mobility indictors by the government in 2011.

We have seed funded and inspired the founding of several projects and organisations across the UK. We seed funded the education charities IntoUniversity and Children’s University, and inspired the founding of Brightside.

By pioneering 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.

We continue to influence higher education policy, through championing fair access to universities across the UK. Our recommendations influenced the development of the Director of Fair Access within Office for Students in England and the appointment of a Fair Access Commissioner in Scotland. We are working in both nations to develop stronger evaluation of programmes to improve access to higher education.

Almost ninety leading independent day schools have so far declared they would back 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.

Between 2000 and 2007, the Trust ran a pilot scheme for the Open Access programme in partnership with the Belvedere School in Liverpool. An independent evaluation by researchers at Buckingham University found that the social mix of the school became more representative of the general population, and the academic ability and progress of the pupils also improved.

The Trust also 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.

We continue to lobby Parliamentarians for the expansion of a national Open Access scheme. It has had the support of politicians from both major parties and independently costed by the Social Market Foundation. The independent-state school debate has also led governments to encourage some independent schools to sponsor academies or free schools.

Following our research looking into the gaps in cognitive attainment between rich and poor school age children we made a strong case for narrowing these gaps by focusing 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% most disadvantaged families. After September 2013, the Coalition government provided 15 hours a week of early learning to disadvantaged two year olds, in addition to three and four year olds. This rose to 30 hours in April 2017.

We continue to make 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 readiness. However, we are worried that spending on early years may be spread too thinly.

Our research has raised awareness of the importance of the quality of early years care provision, contributing to the development of the Government’s Early Years Workforce Strategy released in 2017.

In 2011, the Sutton Trust and Impetus were awarded £135m to set up the Education Endowment Foundation, an independent charity conducting research trails to identify what works to improve attainment for disadvantaged pupils.

In collaboration with the EEF, the Sutton Trust developed the Teaching and Learning Toolkit, a leading evidence based resource on the impact of different teaching approaches and programmes. 63% of secondary senior leaders said that they consider research evidence on the impact of different approaches, with six in ten using the Sutton Trust EEF Toolkit. The Toolkit is recognised by Ofsted, DFE and headteacher associations as an invaluable resource and is increasingly used by classroom teachers.

Our What Makes Great Teaching literature review is widely used to inform practice in schools and has been viewed over 100,000 times since its publication in 2014. We have worked with both the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to develop policy on teacher development, organising joint conferences with both.

Our research has highlighted how good teaching is essential to transforming outcomes for the most disadvantaged pupils. Many of our recommendations on developing teachers were included in the Government’s Education White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere.

Our Leading People reports and related analysis have raised the debate on investigating the educational backgrounds of people in leading professions. The Cabinet Office is developing measures for employers to record the backgrounds of their employees to improve transparency, and we have fed into their development.

In 2016, we won the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary group on Social Mobility, and focused our first inquiry on access into the leading professions. The APPG has allowed us to engage with parliamentarians and show significant policy leadership on this issue.

We have recently launched two new programmes – Pathways to Banking and Pathways to Coding – to support students in accessing these leading professions, which are additions to our portfolio of existing programmes focused on Law, Medicine and STEM.

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 benefitted from the Higher Eduation and 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 measure shows the destinations of pupils after leaving school, whether they enter higher education, apprenticeships or the workforce.

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.

The Sutton Trust served on the Commission on Widening Access in Scotland, helping improve access in Scotland, including the appointment of the Commissioner for Fair Access. The Trust is currently involved in the Scottish Framework for Fair Access Development Group which is putting together a Scottish Framework for Fair Access.

Our reports on Access in Scotland and our Global Gaps report have been debated at First Minister’s Questions and are helping to shape the education debate in Holyrood. The Trust runs summer schools at the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Our research raises awareness about educational and employment inequalities which is widely reported across all mainstream media. Our Shadow Schooling study is the most comprehensive report on private tuition in the UK to date, documenting the growth of the private tuition market over the last ten years. Our regular Leading People reports highlight the staying power of the privately-educated at the top of the UK’s professional hierarchy. Our polling on different sectors including banking highlights the barriers to entering top professions. From 2015, the Sutton Trust has held the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.


We have funded over 200 programmes to address educational inequality including our flagship UK Summer School Programme, our more recent US Summer School Programme and career specific programmes such as our successful ‘Pathways to Law’ programme and our new ‘Pathways to Medicine’ and ‘Pathways to STEM’ programmes.


It is only by understanding the root causes of educational inequalities that the Trust can identify and promote effective solutions to combating them, so research is an important part of our work. The Trust has commissioned over 200 research studies in a broad range of areas and this list continues to grow as we identify emerging areas of interest.

Policy advocacy

The Sutton Trust has a strong record of delivering real change to education policy using both our evidence led research and our programme expertise. Most recently the Sutton Trust, alongside our sister organisation the Education Endowment Foundation, ensured that the terms of the Pupil Premium were not changed under plans outlined by the government in the Spending Review.