Ten practical steps to improve social mobility include fairer grammar school admissions, no more unpaid internships and better early years education

The Sutton Trust is calling today for social mobility to be placed at the heart of the 2017 election campaign in a new Mobility Manifesto that sets out 10 practical and evidence-based policies designed to address issues affecting Britain’s low levels of mobility.

The manifesto urges the political parties to take steps to make grammar and comprehensive school admissions fairer. Research by the Trust has shown grammar schools and England’s highest performing non-selective schools to be socially selective. On average, 2.4% of pupils at grammar schools and 9% of those at one of the top 500 comprehensives are disadvantaged, much less than the average school (17%).

To change this, the Trust wants to see existing grammar schools do much more to attract low income pupils – through improved outreach, contextual admissions and priority places for poorer pupils who meet the entrance criteria – before their number is increased. To tackle ‘selection by house price’ at top urban comprehensives, the Trust is recommending increased use of ballots and banding – perhaps with half the places for those living nearest the school and half to those living further away using random allocation.

Today’s manifesto also urges the political parties to place disadvantaged pupils in the centre of their plans for school funding. It calls for continued support for the pupil premium for all disadvantaged pupils as well as guarantees that any new national funding formula recognises the need of those facing a ‘double disadvantage’ – poorer pupils living in poorer communities. With tight budgets, the Trust want to see all schools using evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit to inform their spending decisions.

The Mobility Manifesto warns that any efforts to improve social mobility must start before school begins, when there is already a 19-month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest tenth of children. The Trust want all disadvantaged children to have access to the best early years’ education by protecting educational funding and resources and ensuring that early years’ practitioners are well-qualified at a time when the focus is increasingly on childcare.

The Manifesto also calls for a ban on unpaid internships that are over four weeks long so that young people who can’t afford to work for free aren’t excluded from different career paths. Other recommendations include:

  • Establish a national programme to support the most able learners in maintained schools and academies, backed by ring-fenced Government funding.
  • Make the quality of classroom teaching the top priority in schools, with effective appraisals and a guaranteed entitlement to good quality training for all teachers.
  • Provide opportunities for young people to develop essential life skills beyond their core curriculum, including access to enrichment and good careers guidance.
  • Help transform social mobility at the top of society by opening leading independent day schools based on ability rather than ability to pay.
  • Keep the case for means-tested tuition fees under review and ensure the new Office for Students puts access at its core, including promoting contextual admissions.
  • Ensure that there are more good advanced and higher apprenticeships, with automatic progression for young people starting on lower levels.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said today:

“There is a clear recognition by all the main political parties that we need to do a lot more to improve social mobility. Today’s ten-point manifesto gives them evidence-based and practical ideas that could turn this consensus into radical change.

“Our recommendations range from giving all disadvantaged children access to the best early years education to ensuring that there are many more high quality advanced and higher level apprenticeships.  Importantly, we need to intervene at every stage of a young person’s life, from before school starts, to university and beyond.”

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Hilary Cornwell or Conor Ryan on 0207 802 1660.


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 180 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  1. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit and its Early Years companion are accessible summaries of educational research developed by the EEF in collaboration with the Sutton Trust and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The Toolkits cover 46 topics and summarises research from over 11,500 studies.  The Toolkits are live resources which are regularly updated.
  2. Poor Grammar found that 2.7% of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals, whereas 12.7% of entrants come from outside the state sector, largely from independent schools.
  3. Selective Comprehensives 2017 found that the top performing 500 comprehensive schools in England, based on GCSE attainment, continue to be highly socially selective, taking just 9.4% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), just over half the rate of the average comprehensive (17.2%)
  4. Background to Success investigated patterns of academic attainment for different subgroups of a longitudinal sample of more than 3,000 students. The researchers found that white working class boys from poor neighbourhoods face a ‘double disadvantage’ of low family income and place poverty – linked to their wider community – which significantly reduces their likelihood of academic study after GCSE.
  5. Sutton Trust Social Mobility Report in 2012 found a 19 month gap in school readiness between the richest and poorest four and five year olds in the UK.
  6. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research developed by the EEF in collaboration with the Sutton Trust and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The expanded Toolkit covers 34 topics and summarises research from over 10,000 studies.  The Toolkit is a live resource which is regularly updated.

Media enquiries

If you're a journalist with a question about our work, get in touch with Ruby. If it's out of office hours, you can call or text 07834 461299.

E: [email protected] T: 020 7802 1660

Keep up to date with the latest news