Javneet Ghuman, Parliamentary and Public Affairs Officer, on why today’s Mobility Manifesto matters
Two years may have passed since the last general election, but it doesn’t feel that long ago. I vividly remember knocking on hundreds of doors, making countless phone calls, and my living room being buried under piles of leaflets. By the time I had finally managed to clear out the remnants of the campaign (several months later), I had forgotten what my carpet looked like! Just recalling those details is exhausting, let alone thinking about it happening again within the space of a few short weeks.
During this general election, my role is somewhat different from managing the organised chaos of a candidate’s campaign. It is to cut through that same chaos to remind politicians that social mobility should be the cornerstone of their party manifestos, and why it is one of the most important issues facing our country right now. In his blog last week, our Chief Executive argued that “one consequence of Britain’s low social mobility is an increasingly detached political elite unable to deliver on their promises to improve opportunities for the rest of the nation”. That is why the Sutton Trust is keen to keep social mobility high on the agenda and why we are today publishing our Mobility Manifesto.
Despite the work of successive governments, children still have vastly different life chances depending on their family background, from early years, through school, university and into the labour force. The top professions in this country continue to be dominated by those from the most advantaged backgrounds; in law, nearly three quarters (74%) of the top judiciary were educated at independent schools and the same proportion (74%) went to Oxbridge. In medicine, nearly two thirds (61%) of top doctors were educated at independent schools even though only 7% of the population has had a private education.
A pupil attending a private prep school is still ten times more likely to enter a grammar school than a pupil on free school meals, and in England and Scotland even bright pupils from poor backgrounds remain substantially behind their well-off counterparts in school, resulting in an education gap of between two to three years.
These startling statistics from Sutton Trust research show that despite some of the recent progress that has been made in improving social mobility, there is more work to be done to overcome these huge challenges.
Our Mobility Manifesto published today outlines ten practical steps we believe are central to making a difference. As the parties launch their manifestos in the coming weeks, we are calling on all political parties to commit to ensuring that improving social mobility is one of their key commitments not only throughout this election campaign, but also something they will work towards once in government.
We want to see the next government commit to ensuring that there are enough qualified staff to provide good quality early years’ care, that we have good quality teachers in all schools and that any new national funding formula for schools directs efforts to support the most disadvantaged pupils.
The new government should focus on making sure our top universities are open to all, looking again at means tested tuition fees, evaluating the success of university outreach programmes, and co-ordinating a more robust effort to support students to access good quality apprenticeships. There should also be a concerted effort to break down the barriers to entering the top professions.
In the 21st Century a child from a disadvantaged background does not have access to the same experiences and opportunities throughout their lifetime as their more advantaged counterpart. It is inexcusable that they don’t and it is why social mobility must remain top of the political agenda.