Education is key to driving social mobility, says Alan Milburn

Chair of Social Mobility Commission Alan Milburn has called on the government to put education at the centre of its drive to deliver social mobility.

Speaking at the Teach First Impact Conference, Milburn voiced concerns about the educational attainment gap in schools and said the government should ’no longer tolerate an education system that produces a cohort of youngsters who simply lack the skills to compete in the modern labour market’.

Milburn highlighted that at the current rates of progression it would take 30 years to halve the educational attainment gap between poorer children and their better-off classmates, and over 50 years before the gap in access to university is closed between the areas with the lowest and highest participation rates.

As a result, he put forward a number of areas of focus that can help to deliver social justice. He suggests that a new target should be set, outlining that at least half of children from the poorest background would achieve five good GCSEs by 2020, and that a new school performance measure should be introduced in 2018 to track pupil’s destinations into work or continued education.

He also urged the government to scrap tuition fees for teacher training, as well as offering housing support for teachers who work in the worst schools in disadvantaged areas.

Additionally, he also called for the lowest performing 20 per cent of schools to be given intensive support or have a change in leadership if they continue to fail.

Milburn said: “The truth about our country is that over decades Britain has become wealthier but we have struggled to become fairer.”

“Children eligible for free school meals suffer a triple whammy of educational disadvantage. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their peers, fewer than two in three of them then leave primary school at the expected level and they leave secondary with two thirds of them not achieving five GCSEs including English and maths. Their risk of ending up in poverty as adults is much greater as a result. In my view it is not just a social injustice that poor children do less well at school than others. It is a moral outrage and it has to change.”

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