How the walls might start to fall down #socialmobility

On Sunday I did a quick post prompted by events at Wimbledon and linked it to wider social mobility issues.

Social mobility?

Social mobility?

Yesterday afternoon I attended the launch event in Central London for a policy report on making university in England more accessible to less advantaged students, despite worries about expected costs. What attracted me was the presence of two key national players, the English Universities Minister, David Willetts, and the Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, Professor Les Ebdon.

The policy report is worth a read if you have the time.

Post launch view of London

Post launch view of London. Photo by Ezri Carlebach.

The main conclusion drawn from the launch event in my eyes is that parents are critical influencers of post16 careers choices for young people when they are at school or college, especially if they are not confident about what they want to do, or there are specific barriers to achieving this. This is not surprising. Previous data also indicates this, some of which is almost a decade old, other more recent. I’m chairing a school and college workshop at a conference this Friday about in and out of university transitions for disabled students in the STEM subjects – we will discuss similar findings from our own small scale surveys.

The big question is: “How can we ensure that we get the social mobility outcomes we really need for the system?”

Here are some of my suggestions, for which I don’t claim any credit but do provide relevant links:

  1. Make sure all schools and colleges are fully accountable to a designated member of their governing body for their published plans on getting more of their students into a good university or a high quality apprenticeship.
  2. Back this up with wider strategic accountability within the local area to ensure link up with employers and identified skills needs. Incentivise universities and employers to engage collectively at a localised level with disadvantaged school children and their parents at an early enough age and in a way that is most suited to the latter rather than the former.
  3. I’m not a big fan of nationally driven accountability, so if this really has to be done, then publish more up-to-date and longitudinal post16 destinations/transitions data about schools, colleges and universities.
  4. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty CommissionUUK and the CBI should drive this agenda in partnership at a national level to influence key policy makers in Whitehall and Parliament.