Updated Nov 2016
It is vital that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed at school. Equally, it is essential that a variety of high quality learning paths are available throughout people’s lives.
A good quality education is essential to social mobility. In the UK, There remains a strong relationship between poverty, deprivation and academic achievement, whilst in the world's leading school systems, a child's academic success is more likely to be the result of their own ability and effort than their family background.
Improve standards in all places for all children to address inequality
We believe that expert teaching is known to be the best way to close the gap in educational attainment. We are with a group of the country’s leading schools to establish a new Institute for Advanced Teaching, to offer transformative, incentivised professional development for teachers beyond their initial training, and to build a movement of expert educators who ensure that all children receive an excellent education.
Regional disparities in educational achievement must be addressed. This divide starts before children reach school age and is exacerbated by variations in regional spending and the more challenging context in which northern schools operate. The government should actively weigh funding more heavily towards areas of the country which have high levels of disadvantage, where teacher recruitment and retention is a particular challenge . They should also find ways to further target teaching and leadership support to those areas where it is most needed.
Tackle mental health early to ensure all children have the best possible start in life
The UK is currently experiencing a crisis in children’s mental health which exacerbates educational attainment gaps and stymies life chances. Early intervention mental health services for children and young people should be rejuvenated – and secondary schools can play a central role in this, complementing wider community and NHS provision.
The UK benefits from a variety of schools’ systems, but we need more oversight
A world class education system is essential to the success of the UK. A diverse range of school systems has generally driven up standards and been a force for good. As long as these remain non-selective and not-for-profit (as these both exacerbate educational inequality) there is room for the expansion of different types of schools including academies and free schools. However, the government should look again at their contractual arrangements to ensure a better balance of autonomy and accountability that is necessary to deliver a first-class education.
It has become clear that greater oversight of the schools system is needed if all schools are to offer an excellent education to pupils. We believe that direct oversight of schools is best provided locally rather than by the Secretary of State The recently established Regional Schools Commissioners should be appointed by and answerable to City Mayors rather than the Secretary of State.
All schools should reflect the diversity of the communities in which they are based, including schools targeted at specific cultural or religious groups. The process for school admissions should be simple, fair and transparent for all parents. To ensure this, admissions criteria and processes should be set and run by local authorities rather than individual schools.
There needs to be clarity on the national curriculum to ensure core skills are protected, while enough flexibility that young people can pursue a variety of pathways including vocational and mixed higher education.
Improve access to higher education for everyone, regardless of family background
Over the last decade, the expansion of higher education has helped to drive social mobility and improve the UK’s skills base. Despite this growth, elite universities and postgraduate courses still remain largely the preserve of people who come from more affluent backgrounds. This means that people who work in elite professions are predominantly drawn from a very small section of society.
If the government is serious about increasing social mobility in Britain, it should take action to address this. We propose the creation of a postgraduate loan system to ensure that anybody is able to apply for a master’s degree regardless of their family background. To ensure that universities have the resources to widen participation, we also propose the creation of a ‘Student Premium’ and greater use of contextual admissions.
Improve the provision and standing of vocational education and careers advice and training to tackle youth unemployment
Persistently high youth unemployment and changes in the labour market mean that the UK needs better, clearer pathways for young people to move from education to work. Transitions from education to work break down for many people in the post-16 phase, contributing to high numbers of young people who are NEET (Not in education, employment or training) further entrenching inequality. We need a wider range of quality “learning and earning” options.
Our current vocational education system is not up to scratch. Too many young people end up on poor quality courses with little practical work experience. The government should reform the way the apprenticeship system works for 16-18 year olds so they receive better quality “pre-apprenticeship” training.
Today's secondary school pupils are being let down by careers services that are not equal to the task of helping them navigate the increasingly difficult transition from school to work. Closer collaboration between local schools and businesses offers mutual benefits, and can help guide young people towards rewarding careers.
Funding for careers advice should be strengthened and the National Careers Service should be expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. There should be a mutually proactive relationship between careers services and local businesses.