The Treasury should prioritise social mobility in next week’s Spending Review – including by increasing spending on the further education sector – according to the Chair and Co-chair of the APPG on Social Mobility, Justin Madders MP and Baroness Tyler of Enfield.

In a strongly worded letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility set out a series of policies – from birth to the workplace – to improve opportunities for disadvantaged young people. They call on the new government to act now to boost low levels of social mobility across the country.

The letter highlights how cuts to the further education sector has disproportionately affected young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. According to the group, increasing spending in this area could ensure further education and apprenticeships become effective vehicles for social mobility.

As recommended by the Social Mobility Commission in their most recent State of the Nation report, the co-chairs are calling on the government to introduce a Student Premium of at least £500 per year for disadvantaged 16-19-year olds. This would be the first stage of repurposing the pupil premium to have a stronger focus on social mobility, as recommended by the APPG in their Closing the Regional Attainment Gap report.

The co-Chairs are also calling on the government to focus on spending in the early years, by ringfencing funding for children’s centres and ensuring they are able to reconnect with their original purpose of providing support to disadvantaged 0-5 year olds and their families. They also want to see greater investment in improving qualifications for the early years workforce as a whole, including by giving early years teachers an increase in pay, conditions and status.

In the letter, Justin Madders MP (Labour) and Baroness Claire Tyler (Liberal Democrat), co-chairs of the APPG on social mobility, write:

“Social mobility in the UK has stagnated. From birth to the workplace, a young person’s life chances are heavily shaped by how much their parents earn and where they grow up.

“Our research has highlighted serious inequalities from early years through to the workplace. It is critical that the new government acts now to change this and stop the tragic waste of talent that blights both our society and economy.

“While the main lever for improving social mobility is through education opportunities, it is not enough to focus on this in isolation. We need a cross-departmental strategy that combines big picture thinking with genuine local understanding.”

“We hope the new government take this opportunity to tackle the injustices that are currently afflicting both our society and economy.”

James Turner, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said:

The APPG is right to call on the Treasury to put social mobility at the heart of their spending plans. It is a critical moment for the new government to act and show their commitment to improving opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people across the country.

“We particularly welcome their calls to prioritise further education by introducing a student premium of at least £500 per year for disadvantaged 16-19-year-olds. Given that twice the number of disadvantaged 16-to-18-year-olds are in FE compared to school sixth forms, the sector has the potential to be an effective vehicle for social mobility, if properly funded.”

Other policies proposed by the co-chairs of the APPG in today’s letter include:

  • Restoring maintenance grants for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in higher education.
  • Supporting schools in social mobility coldspots to offer a more generous financial incentive to encourage teachers to take up positions in those schools.
  • Repurposing the pupil premium into a ‘social mobility premium’ which can be used on teacher recruitment and retention.
  • Ringfencing funding for interns in Westminster to such a level that all interns can be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, and ideally the London Living Wage.

For further information please contact Hilary Cornwell or Ruby Nightingale on 020 7802 1660 / 07917 462164

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility is a cross-party group of MPs and peers. Formed in 2011 to discuss and promote the cause of social mobility; to raise issues of concern and help inform policy makers and opinion formers. We seek to investigate the challenges for policy makers to ensure life chances are not limited by background.
  2. The Sutton Trust provides secretarial support to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility and helped produce this report and organise evidence hearings.
  3. The letter is available from this link.