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Cheat Sheet: Social Mobility

Everything you need to know about the story of the day - facts, figures, and what the commentators a

The story

Professional careers are becoming more, not less, exclusive, warns a new government report by the cross-party panel on social mobility. Law, medicine, and the media continue to be dominated by privately educated candidates, and a "closed shop mentality". The study calls for mentoring programmes and greater parent choice over schools to prevent middle and working class children from losing out.

Read the New Statesman's news coverage of the story.

What the papers say

The Times

Alan Milburn, who chaired the panel, argues that the answer lies in greater parent choice over schools - not a return to the selective grammar school system. He agrees with the Conservative argument that city academies should be extended in both primary and secondary schools and that the supply of education places could be opened up to greater competition.

Milburn suggests giving parents from deprived areas an education credit worth 150 per cent of the cost of the child's schooling for a state school of their choice, so that the extra funding would give good schools the incentive to expand pupil numbers across the social spectrum.

It is no longer sustainable for our education system to produce a cohort of youngsters who lack the skills to compete in the modern labour market. For reasons of economic progress, we need a second wave of social mobility.

The Guardian

Polly Toynbee says that inequality has worsened under Labour, although programmes such as tax credits and SureStart may yet have long-term good effects. She criticizes the rise of unpaid internships and argues that the only route to social mobility is by confronting the root causes.

Equality of opportunity doesn't happen in any society as grossly unequal as this. The report shows graphically how the only countries that nurture talent regardless of class are those where incomes and lifestyles are most equal.

The Daily Mail

John Humphrys revisits the Cardiff Street where he grew up to consider why social mobility is decreasing in this supposedly affluent age. He argues that:

The results of one study after another prove it and the question is, why? There are three possible explanations:
Apathy: The people at the bottom of the ladder simply can't be bothered to help themselves as they once did.
Politics: The system works against them.
The middle class: They've pulled up the ladder behind them.

In numbers

  • Privately educated candidates account for 7 per cent of the population, but occupy more than half of the top professional jobs.
  • 75 per cent of judges, 45 per cent of senior civil servants, and a third of MPs are privately educated
  • 57 per cent of British parents would send their children to private school if they could afford it
  • More than 4 in 10 places and Oxford and Cambridge go to privately educated candidates
  • Under Labour, spending on state education has increased by £28 billion per year
  • 600,000 children take GCSEs annually. 360,000 do not get the five good grades required for university or employment (60 per cent)
  • £400 million is currently spent yearly on trying to get students from poorer families into university. This money may be re-directed to schools.
  • The new report has made 80 recommendations on how to enhance social mobility
  • 30 per cent of children on free school meals do not get good GCSEs
  • Of students getting 3 As at A-Level, just 0.5 per cent were eligible for free school meals
  • 600,000 children are in failing schools

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.