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Children: Social Mobility

Question for Department for Education

UIN 91945, tabled on 13 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve social mobility for children from working class backgrounds.

Answered on

20 November 2020

Social mobility is a top priority across the department. Every child should have the same opportunity to express their talents and make the most of their lives.

Evidence shows that what happens in children’s earliest years, before they start school, can have a huge influence on later outcomes. That is why the department has committed over £60 million to programmes to improve early language and literacy. Over 1 million disadvantaged two-year olds have taken up an early education place since the entitlement began in September 2013. Results show that the proportion of children achieving a ‘good level of development’ at age 5 is improving year on year. The percentage of children receiving free school meals (FSM) and achieving a good level of development was 57% in 2019, compared 36% in 2013.

A world-class education system that works for everyone is the surest way to spread opportunity across the country. That is why we are investing over £7 billion more in our schools by the 2022-23 financial year, compared to the 2019-20 financial year. This means schools around the country can continue to raise standards to give all children the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Schools continue to receive the pupil premium, worth £2.4 billion again this year, to enable them to arrange extra personalised support for disadvantaged pupils.

Our technical education reforms will also offer a real choice of high-quality training that has parity of esteem with traditional academic routes, so that all young people can follow the path that’s right for them and benefit from more choice in their education journey. The new T Levels will offer young people a high-quality alternative to A Levels. We are providing extensive support for their implementation, particularly around building capacity for industry placements and capital funding for high quality facilities and equipment.

We are making progress on spreading opportunity, with disadvantaged 18-year-olds entering full time higher education at record rates. The latest data shows that there were 24,900 placed English 18-year-old applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, constituting an entry rate of 23.1%. Both are the highest on record.

Opportunity Areas (OAs) are working to improve outcomes for children and young people in 12 areas with low social mobility. This is at the heart of our work to level up and learn what works best in areas with entrenched social mobility barriers, so that we can roll out successful approaches across the country.

We are investing £90 million in the 12 OAs to tackle barriers preventing children and young people from achieving their potential. The OAs have also benefitted from £22 million through the “Essential Life Skills” programme, focused on developing resilience, wellbeing, and employability.