Posts Tagged ‘Social Policy’

Social Mobility or Social Justice

June 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Last week I was doing some research and I happened across and interesting report from the education select committee reviewing the work and the future of the social mobility commission, following the resignation of all the commissioners. The report itself had some damning things to say about the government’s treatment of the commission and the distinct failure of the government to work to achieve a higher standard of social mobility, despite the prime minister stating that social mobility would be a priority of her government.

The thing that interested me the most was the discussion about social justice vs social mobility. The education select committee expressed a feeling that social mobility seems to focus on raising people up the ladder of opportunity, and can sometimes leave people struggling to get onto that ladder. They discussed that the current focus seems to be on picking a few out of poverty and giving them an opportunity to attend a good university. Their recommendation was that the name of the commission be changed from social mobility to social justice and that their focus be to look at all policy changes from a social justice viewpoint to ensure that it was working for all. These recommendations appear to have been rejected by the government.

Roll forward a few days and I read an article about the opposition policy announcement that they would alter the name and focus of the commission from social mobility to social justice and switch its focus from picking a few to lift out to a radical new way of thinking which aims to help everyone. When I read the article I could see that the opposition had clearly read the education select committee’s report. That they too feel that after decades of failure by consecutive governments from both sides of the house to achieve a more equal society a radical overhaul in the approach was required.

To me this seems a sensible policy. Tweaking has failed, we’ve rehashed the same policy ideas over and over and all we have seen is a greater inequality than we had before. Surely it’s time to rethink? But then I read the backlash. The education secretary spoke out against the idea saying it was “downgrading the importance of social mobility”. Let that sink in, the current government have downgraded the importance of social mobility so much that the entire commission resigned due to government actions and their education secretary is accusing this policy of downgrading the importance. The hypocrisy is ridiculous and there is also a condescending overtone to those who do not want to move towards a graduate career. To write these people off as being “without ambition” is wholly wrong. A university education is not the only measure of success.

Then there is the idea that getting students from disadvantaged backgrounds into university is even a good indication of social mobility and reducing inequality. In a world where unpaid internships and old boys networks are the biggest steppingstones to the top jobs getting to university is only half the battle. A shift of focus from social mobility to tackling the inequality in society at all levels is, for me,  a welcome one.

Further Reading:

Education Select Committee report mentioned above, The future of the Social Mobility Commission:

TES report on Labour policy and Hinds’ response:

Letter from Prof Reay (Cambridge University) on social mobility:


Improving outcomes for disadvantaged children

February 7, 2014 1 comment

Recently I have been thinking a lot about barriers for learning, as the module I’m currently studying for my MA is on this. I wrote this post about false variables and it got me thinking a lot about the effect socio-economic status has on the development of the child. I stated in that post that I thought:

“This could be due to a plethora of reasons which may include: a higher level of education to the parents, enabling them to provide more support to learning at home; a higher income in the house which may enable private tuition if a child is falling behind or even that more working class families are reliant on shift work, longer days and multiple jobs, leaving them less time to spend with their children to aid their development.”

This idea was also one that jumped out at me when I read this article on the BBC website. The suggestion was that poverty has little effect in some other countries, so it shouldn’t here. But that suggests that poverty alone is the issue that effects academic achievement, when in actuality it is a crude measure which is indicative of a variety of other factors, the effects of which we should be trying to minimise. The bbc article also fails to take into account the relative differences in culture, the hours of schooling and other factors that vary between countries.

In Britain the reasons mentioned above are prevalent in many families that fall below the poverty line. The level of education of the parents is one that we are working on, but we could do more. Perhaps schools should offer more adult education classes to enable parents to help their children at home. Perhaps the government could provide some resources to enable parents to learn the skills they’d need to be able to help. (Maybe all parents should be issued with Rob Eastaway’s Maths for Mums and Dads?!) A reformed system of higher education, replacing the current student loans system with a graduate tax, would perhaps stop the stigma of “debt” being attached to university places and allow more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access higher education. The Pupil Premium payments are going some way towards allowing schools to offer disadvantaged pupils some of the opportunities that others take for granted, but there is still a large gap in the equality of opportunity that I feel needs a multiagency approach that needs to be driven by the government. The third issue mentioned is one that would be eliminated by the introduction of a living wage. This would stop the need for massively long working weeks, allow more people into work and improve outcomes for all.

On the whole schools are working tirelessly to close the gap, and I would suggest that in many areas there has been significant improvement. I do feel, however, that we need a more holistic approach which would allow for a more equal society.

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