Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, called on the Government to set up an independent cross-party commission to examine the reasons for UK’s very low social mobility, and how it can be addressed. His call came in an interview with John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme which is devoting a week to social mobility issues.
Sir Peter referred to the latest findings from Stephen Machin and Jo Blanden at the London School of Economics which shows that although social mobility has bottomed-out in recent years it is at a very low level. International studies reveal that the UK is bottom of the table of advanced countries for which there is data.
Commenting on the findings, Sir Peter Lampl, said:
“This matters because it is fundamentally unfair and inefficient: we need to make best use of the talents of young people from all backgrounds, both for reasons of economic efficiency and fairness. We combine inequality of opportunity with high inequality of outcome – the worst of all worlds.
“If we are to address this sorry state of affairs, we need a step change and bold action on a range of fronts. This means investing more in universal, high quality early years provision and improving our under-performing state schools.
We also need to recognise that we have a socially selective education system in this country. The top 20 percent of our secondary schools – independents, grammars and leading comprehensives – are effectively closed to those from non-privileged backgrounds. We should open up independent day schools to children from all backgrounds on the basis of merit; ensure our grammar schools take in pupils from less wealthy homes; and make sure our top comprehensives play fair when it comes to admissions.
“Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have acknowledged the seriousness of this issue, but our low level of social mobility is a problem that goes beyond party politics. It is a national issue which requires a national solution. We urgently need an independent cross-party commission to examine why our record is so poor and how we can address this.”