Response to the new Social Mobility Commission report: addressing regional inequality

New research by the Social Mobility Commission identifies the local authorities facing the lowest social mobility in England and the underlying factors contributing to the lack of opportunities available to those who grew up in “cold spots”.

The report, entitled “The long shadow of deprivation: Differences in opportunities across England“, uses newly available data to track the school and career journeys of all state-educated boys in England born between 1986-1988. The findings reveal significant pay gaps28-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds who grew up in areas with the highest mobility earned twice as much as those who grew up in areas with the lowest. While education is a strong factor in determining earnings outcomesthe report shows that in the most unequal areas 33% of the pay gap came down to other factors such as social capital and local labour markets.  

Meeting volunteers from the world of work is one practical solution that can play role in positively impacting a young person’s trajectory. Inspiring the Future seeks to provide young people with role models from a huge range of backgrounds, showing them what they could be. In 2017, Nick Chambers CEO of Education and Employers wrote an article for the TES on the importance of addressing social mobility at primary level. It argued that early employer encounters can help raise aspirations and tackle the ingrained stereotypical views that children often have about the people who do jobs and the backgrounds they are from. Our research (Four or more) shows that interacting with employers during education helps to reduce a young person’s chance of becoming ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET). 

The Commission suggests that “deepening” government programmes in the Opportunity Areas would help combat these inequalities. Inspiring the Future’s regional projects have targeted key areas of low social mobility working in partnership with local authorities and schools to help make connections between education and world of work. The Our Future Derby project, supporting primary schools to connect with employers through Primary Futures, is a key part of the Opportunity Area response. Equally, our work on the Inspiring Bradford campaign has enabled both primary and secondary pupils to discover what they could achieve and the steps they could take to get there. Volunteer Naila Ali said“I went to failing high school in inner city Bradford. Whilst it has taken a lot of hard work and determination, I have a successful career as a Lawyer working for the Government Legal Department in London… I want to show children from a similar background to me that there are opportunities out there.” 

Saeed Atcha MBE DL, HM Government Social Mobility Commissioner and CEO at Youth Leads UK, commented, “This report just highlights how much we need to expand the on-the-ground work delivered by organisations like Education and Employers. We can’t rely solely on Government to solve the issue of social mobility – it’s about all of us working together. Furthering the links between education and employers is by far one of the best routes to supporting young people get ahead in life no matter their background”.

As highlighted in the report, COVID-19 adds another layer of complexity to the disadvantage found in these localities. Since the start of lockdown, Inspiring the Future has developed virtual interactive sessions enabling children and young people to access an even more diverse range of exciting volunteers from the world of work, and allowing all areas of the UK to gain easier access to these valuable experiences. On a broader scale, the Commission has shown that changes need to be made and existing government projects needs to be expanded, and we are keen to continue our work to support wider efforts enabling young people to access brighter futures. 

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