“Social mobility is not just about helping the gifted and talented get to the top, it’s about realising everyone’s potential.” – Rt Hon Justine Greening MP
As a champion of social mobility whilst in Government, Greening kicked off the session by reflecting on the Social Mobility Action Plan (SMAP), which the Department for Education launched at the end of 2017. Particularly interesting was hearing Greening echo sentiments that the APPG has heard from some of the other sessions, especially around the importance of a sense of place and the need to ensure that initiatives chime with the beliefs of the local area.
Greening then went on to argue that what she felt was missing from the SMAP was a focus on employers and their role in furthering the social mobility agenda. She argued that education alone would not be enough in improving social mobility and that now as a backbencher, she would be working with employers to make sure that businesses of all sizes were playing their role in providing equal opportunities.
Following Greening, the session then heard from Dr Vanessa Ogden, headteacher of the Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets, who spoke about the work her school was doing around professional development, especially as Trust, as well as touching on the external challenges that her students face on a daily basis.
James Turner, Deputy Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), then provided insight into the work of the EEF and the role evidence plays in education. He talked about how evidence could be used to help schools raise attainment and the role that research schools play in opportunity areas and beyond, but warned that ‘finding out what works is only half the picture – now we need to spread this knowledge.’
Professor Rebecca Allen, Director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science, Institute of Education moved on to discuss the teacher labour market and the difficulties in addressing teacher shortfalls. She was followed finally by Professor Kathy Sylva, University of Oxford, who reflected on the importance of early years education in raising attainment for the most disadvantaged children. Paying tribute to Tessa Jowell, Kathy highlighted the shift in debate from education to childcare, announcing that with ‘no manager, no staff and no regular services’, current children’s centres need urgent attention.
This session builds on the evidence heard by members of the APPG at the last two sessions, and was the final one for this current inquiry. The APPG will now look to put together a report, released later this year, on the regional attainment gap using evidence provided at the sessions, as well as evidence submitted by interested parties. You can find out more information about the APPG on Social Mobility here.