State of the Nation 2016:
Social Mobility in Great Britain
BRITAIN has a deep social mobility
problem which is getting worse for an entire generation of young people, the
Social Mobility Commission's State of the Nation 2016 report warns. The impact is not just felt by the poorest in
society but is also holding back whole tranches of middle, as well as low
income, families; these treadmill families are running harder and harder, but
are standing still.
The problem is not just social division, but a widening geographical divide
between the big Cities; London especially; and too many towns and counties
across the country that are being left behind economically and hollowed out
In the North West:-
► 48% of children from low-income families are school-ready at 5, compared 67%
of their wealthier peers. The local authority with the biggest development gap
between advantaged and disadvantaged children in the early years is Wigan, where
just 41% of poorer children are school ready at 5.
► Blackpoll, Knowles and Oldham area all among the 10 local authority areas with
the largest proportion of children in schools rated inadequate.
► Just 3.9% of children eligible for free school meals gain 5 A grades at GCSE.
In Knowles, only 1 in 5 children eligible for free school meals achieve 5 GCSEs
at grade C or above (including English and maths).
► Blackpoll is 1 of the worst local authorities in the country for keeping
poorer children in education after 16. Some 18% of poorer young people are not
in education or training (NET) at 16, compared to 7% in the 6 best local
► At Bolton University, 25% of all students from low participation areas end up
dropping out before they complete their courses.
► 75% of local authorities in the North West have more than 1 in 4 workers
earning below the Living Wage, compared to less than 1 in 4 local authorities in
the South East. The lowest hourly pay averages in the country are Rosendale
(£8.83) and Eden (£8.97).
The 'State of the Nation 2016' report, which was laid before Parliament this
morning, lays bare the scale of the social mobility challenge facing the
Government. It finds fundamental barriers including an unfair education system,
a 2 tier labour market, a regionally imbalanced economy and an unaffordable
The Social Mobility Commission welcomes the high priority that the current, as
well as successive, governments have given to social mobility and finds that
some real progress has been made. But it concludes that the twentieth century
expectation that each generation would be better off than the preceding 1 is
no longer being met.
It points to evidence that those born in the 1980's are the 1st post war cohort
not to start their working years with higher incomes than their immediate
predecessors. Home ownership, the aspiration of successive generations of
ordinary people, is in sharp decline, among the young especially. Most shocking
of all, today only 1 in 8 children from low income backgrounds is likely to
become a high income earner as an adult.
The Commission calls for new thinking and new approaches to deal with these deep
structural problems. It recommends that an ambitious 10 year programme of social
reform is needed which the Government should lead and which employers and
educators should join.
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said:-
"The rungs on the social mobility ladder are growing further apart. It is
becoming harder for this generation of struggling families to move up. The
social divisions we face in Britain today impact many more people and places
than the very poorest in society or the few thousands youngsters who miss out on
a top university. Whole sections of society and whole tracts of Britain feel
left behind. The growing sense that we have become an 'us and them'
society; where a few unfairly entrench power and wealth to themselves; is deeply
corrosive of our cohesion as a nation. As the EU referendum result showed, the
public mood is sour and decision makers have been far too slow to respond. We
applaud the Prime Minister's determination to heal social division and foster
social progress. That is a big ambition. It will require big action. Fundamental
reforms are needed in our country's education system, labour market and local
economies to address Britain's social mobility problem. That should be the holy
grail of public policy, the priority for government and the cause which unites
the nation to action."
Nationwide key findings include:-
► Britain has a deep social mobility problem: the poorest find it hardest to
progress but so do families with annual income of around £22,500.
► People born in the 1980's are the first post-war cohort not to start their
working years with higher incomes than their immediate predecessors.
► Millions of workers, particularly women, are trapped in low pay with only 1
in 10 escaping.
► Only 1 in 8 children from low income backgrounds is likely to become a high
income earner as an adult.
► From the early years through to universities and the workplace, there is an
entrenched and unbroken correlation between social class and success.
► In the last decade, 500,000 poorer children were not school ready by age 5.
► Children in deprived areas are twice as likely to be in childcare provision
that is not good enough, compared with the most prosperous areas.
► Families where both parents are highly educated now spend on average around
110 minutes a day on educational activities with their young children compared
to 71 minutes a day for those with low education. This compares with around 20
to 30 minutes a day in the 1970's when there was no significant difference
between the groups of parents.
► Over the last 5 years, 1.2 million, 16 year olds, disproportionately from low
income homes, have left school without 5 good GCSEs. At present, just 5% of
children eligible for free school meals gain 5 A grades at GCSE's.
► A child living in 1 of England's most disadvantaged areas is 27 times more
likely to go to an inadequate school than a child in the most advantaged.
► Young people from low income homes with similar GCSEs to their better
classmates are one third more likely to drop out of education at 16 and 30% less
likely to study A Levels that could get them into a top university.
► Young people are 6 times less likely to go to Oxbridge if they grow up in a
poor household. In the North East, not one child on free school meals went to Oxbridge after leaving school in 2010.
► In the North East and the South West, young people on free school meals are
½ as likely to start a higher level apprenticeship and half as likely to
complete it as wealthier peers. In Yorkshire and the Humber, only 2% of poorer
young people will complete their apprenticeship.
► In London, the number of top end occupational jobs has increased by 700,000 in
the last 10 years compared to just under 56,000 in the North East.
► Despite some efforts to change the social make up of the professions, only 4%
of doctors, 6% of barristers and 11% of journalists are from working class
► Home ownership is in sharp decline; particularly among the young. Rates among
the under 44's have fallen by 17% in the last decade.
► People who own their homes have average non-pension wealth of £307,000,
compared to less than £20,000 for social and private tenant households.
► There is a new geography of disadvantage with many towns and rural areas; not
just in the North; being left behind affluent London and the South East. In 40
local authority areas, 33% of all employee jobs are paid below the Living Wage.
► More than half the adults in Wales, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber,
the West Midlands and Northern Ireland have less than £100 in savings.
Early years - The Government should:
► Introduce a new parental support package at key points in a child's life to
support children falling behind;
► Set a clear objective that by 2025, every child should be school ready at the
age of 5 and the child development gap has been closed with a new strategy to
increase high quality childcare for low income families.
► Double funding for the early years pupil premium to ensure better childcare
for those that need it most.
Schools - The Government should:-
► Have as its core objective the ambition, within the next decade,
the attainment gap at GCSE between poorer children and their better off
classmates by ⅔, bringing the rest of the country to the level achieved
in London today.
► Rethink its plans for more grammar schools and more academies;
► Mandate the ten lowest performing local authorities to take part in
improvement programmes so that by 2020 none of those schools are Ofsted-rated
inadequate and all are progressing to good;
► Reform the training and distribution of teachers and create new incentives;
including better starting pay; to get more of the highest quality teachers into
the schools that need them.
► Require independent schools and universities to provide high quality careers
advice, support with university applications and share their business networks
with state schools.
► Repurpose the National Citizen Service so that all children between the ages
of 14 and 18 can have quality work experience or extra curricular activity.
Post 16 education and training - The Government should:-
► Develop a single UCAS-style portal over the next 4 years so that youngsters to
can make better choices about their post-school futures;
► Make schools more accountable for the destinations of their pupils and the
courses they take post-16;
► School 6th form provision should be extended and schools given a role in
supporting FE colleges to deliver the Skills Plan. The number of 16 to 18 year old NEETS should be zero by 2022.
► Low quality apprenticeships should be scrapped.
► A new social mobility league table should be published to encourage
universities to widen access.
► Over the next 10 years, higher education should be extended to those parts
Britain that have no or low provision.
Jobs, careers and earnings - The Government should:-
► Create a new deal with employers to define business' social
the support they will get;
► Develop a Second Chance Career fund to help older workers retrain and write
off advanced learner loans for part time workers.
► Work with large employers, Local Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)
to bring new, high quality job opportunities backed by financial incentives to
the country's social mobility cold spots;
► Support LEPs in social mobility coldspots to tackle local skills gaps and
attract better jobs to the area;
► All large business should develop strategies to provide low skilled workers
with opportunities for career progression;
► Introduce a legal ban on unpaid internships.
Housing - The Government should:-
► Commit to a target of building three million homes over the next decade; with
⅓ being commission by the public sector;
► Expand the sale of public sector land for new homes
and allow targeted house-building on Green Belt land.
► Modify the Starter Home initiative to focus on households with average incomes
and ensure these homes when sold go to other low income households at the same
► Introduce Tax incentives to encourage longer private sector tenancies.
► Complement plans to redevelop the worst estates with a £140 million fund to
improve opportunities for social tenants to get work.