Senior Parliamentary and Public Affairs Officer, Javneet Ghuman, reports back on the first meeting of the APPG on social mobility, which looked at the regional attainment gap.

The most popular word in the Department for Education is currently ‘place’, with the Secretary of State focusing on place based initiatives like Opportunity Areas and Research School networks as a mechanism for improving social mobility.

The Sutton Trust’s own Mobility Map shows that levels of social mobility are inconsistent across the country. It finds that not only are all of the top ten constituencies for social mobility in London and the South, but that the ten constituencies with the lowest levels are all in the Midlands or the North of England.

It is with that in mind that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, after the success of its most recent inquiry examining access into leading professions, will now be turning its focus to the regional attainment gap. This first session focused on a broad overview of the gap, what the research currently says, and why it is so important to ensure that the gap is closed.

Officers of the APPG and members of the public heard from a range of speakers on the topic. Jo Hutchinson, Director for Social Mobility and Vulnerable Learners at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), presented on the report published by EPI in the summer which examined the regional attainment gap in more detail, drawing out the different patterns in various geographical areas.

She was followed by Professor Becky Francis, Director of the UCL-Institute of Education (IOE), who focused on the impact that schools have in narrowing the attainment gap. She argued that schools tend to reflect the gaps in wider society and that education is used by the more advantaged in society to ‘perpetuate the gap’ between themselves and those that are less advantaged.

Luke Sibieta, Programme Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, reflected on the economics of the regional attainment gap. He argued that the research shows a strong positive relationship between resources and outcomes but said that crucially, resources need to be used in the right way for them to have any positive impact, drawing on the teaching assistants guidance report published by the Education Endowment Foundation.

Dr Lee Elliot Major of the Sutton Trust gave the final presentation and outlined why narrowing the gap is so important to improve social mobility. He argued that the same opportunities to succeed should be offered to everyone, regardless of where they grew up because there are talented young people in every part of the country. He touched on the success of London due to the mix of a highly aspirational population as well as good schools, and argued that if we are truly to improve social mobility then there needs to be a combination of improving both the schools within an area but also the prospects outside of schools such as a thriving local economy and opportunities for further education.

After a lively question and answer session, Chair Justin Madders MP bought the meeting to a close by thanking speakers for raising a lot of important points. The APPG will use this session as the basis of its inquiry as it moves on to looking at what practical steps can be taken to narrow the regional attainment gap.

You can find out more information about the APPG on Social Mobility here.

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