State of the Nation 2017 - Social
Mobility in Great Britain
A stark social mobility postcode
lottery exists in Britain today, where the chances of someone from a
disadvantaged background succeeding in life are bound to where they live, the
Social Mobility Commission's State of the Nation report finds.
The report uncovers a striking geographical divide with London and its
surrounding areas pulling away from the rest of the country, while many other
parts of the country are being left behind economically and hollowed out
It warns that the UK is in the grip of a self reinforcing spiral of ever growing
division and calls on Government to increase its proportion of spending on those
parts of the country that most need it. Estimates suggest that the North is ₤6
billion a year underfunded compared to London.
At the heart of the report is the Social Mobility Index, which ranks all 324
Local Authorities in England in terms of their social mobility prospects for
someone from a disadvantaged background. It uses a range of 16 indicators for
every major life stage, from early years through to working lives, to map the
nation's social mobility hot spots and cold spots. A similar, but not comparable,
approach is taken for Scotland and Wales.
The report debunks the assumption that a simple north/south divide exists.
Instead, it suggests there is a postcode lottery with hot spots and cold spots
found in almost every part of the country. London dominates the hot spots, while
the East and West Midlands are the worst performing regions. The best performing
Local Authority area is Westminster and the worst performing area is West
The index finds that the worst performing areas for social mobility are no
longer inner City areas. But remote rural or coastal areas and former industrial
areas, especially in the Midlands. Youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds who
live there face far higher barriers than those who grow up in Cities and their
surrounding areas; and in our working lives people face lower rates of pay,
fewer top jobs and travel to work times nearly four times those of urban
There is also no direct correlation between the affluence of an area and its
ability to sustain high levels of social mobility. While richer areas tend to
outperform deprived areas in the Index, a number of places buck the trend. Some
of the most deprived areas in England are hot spots, including most London
boroughs; such as Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham. Conversely, some affluent
areas; such as West Berkshire, Cotswold and Crawley; are amongst the worst for
offering good education, employment opportunities and affordable housing to
their most disadvantaged residents.
The report highlights that local policies adopted by Local Authorities and
employers can influence outcomes for disadvantaged residents. But it warns that
there is a mind blowing inconsistency of practice in how to improve social
mobility outcomes with little pooling of experience or evidence based
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said:-
"The country seems to be in the grip of a self reinforcing spiral of
ever-growing division. That takes a spatial form, not just a social one. There
is a stark social mobility lottery in Britain today.
London and its hinterland are increasingly looking like a different country from
the rest of Britain. It is moving ahead, as are many of our country's great
Cities. But too many rural and coastal areas and the Towns of Britain's old
industrial heartlands are being left behind economically and hollowed out
socially. Tinkering around the edges will not do the trick. The analysis in this
report substantiates the sense of political alienation and social resentment
that so many parts of Britain feel. A new level of effort is needed to tackle
the phenomenon of left-behind Britain. Overcoming the divisions that exist in
Britain requires far more ambition and far bigger scale. A less divided Britain
will require a more redistributive approach to spreading education, employment
and housing prospects across our country."
Key findings include:-
► London accounts for nearly ⅔ of all social mobility
► The Midlands is the worst region of the country for social mobility for those
from disadvantaged backgrounds; ½ the Local Authority areas in the East
Midlands and more than a ⅓ in the West Midlands are social mobility cold spots.
► Some of the worst performing areas, such as Weymouth and Portland, and Allerdale, are rural, not urban.
► Coastal and older industrial Towns; places like Scarborough, Hastings, Derby
and Nottingham; are becoming entrenched social mobility cold spots.
► Some of the richest places in England, like West Berkshire, Cotswold and
Crawley, deliver worse outcomes for their disadvantaged children than places
that are much poorer like Sunderland and Tower Hamlets.
► Apart from London, English Cities are punching below their weight on social
mobility outcomes. No other City makes it into the top 20%.
► Early years - Disadvantaged children are 14% less likely to be School ready at
age 5 in cold spots than hot spots: in 94 areas, under ½ of disadvantaged
children reach a good level of development at age 5.
► Schools - 51% of London children on free School meals achieve A* to C in
English and maths GCSE compared to an average of 36% of children on free School
meals in all other English regions; in the best place (Westminster) 63% get good
English and maths GCSE's, but in the worst (Isle of Wight) only 27% do.
► A critical factor in the performance of top Local Authorities is the number
and quality of teachers available. A secondary teacher in the most deprived area
is 70% more likely to leave.
► Schools in rural and coastal areas are isolated and lack partnerships with
other Schools. In Lancashire and West Yorkshire only 19% of all Schools are
either in a multi academy trust or an equivalent trust compared to 35% in north
east London and the East of England.
► Youth – In Kensington and Chelsea, 50% of disadvantaged youngsters make it to
University, but in Hastings, Barnsley and Eastbourne, the University
participation rate for this group falls to just 10%.
► 25% of young people are NEET (not in education, employment or training) in the
worst Local Authority area a year after GCSE's (South Ribble) compared to 1% in
► Working lives - In 71, largely rural, areas more than 30% of people earn below
the voluntary living wage: average wages in the worst performing area, West
Somerset, are ₤312 a week, less than ½ of the best performing areas of
London, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames and Westminster.
► In Bolsover, just 17% of residents are in jobs that are professional and
managerial positions compared to 51% in Oxford.
► City residents face barriers in their working lives with high housing costs
and high rates of low paid work, as residents of commuter belts benefit from
greater rates of top jobs and more families own their own homes.
► In Blaby, Rochford and Harborough, 80% of residents own their home, but in
Tower Hamlets it is just 18%.
► Every Local Authority should develop an integrated strategy for improving
disadvantaged children's outcomes and that Pupil Premium funds should be
invested in evidence based practice.
► Local Authorities should support collaboration between isolated Schools,
subsidise transport for disadvantaged young people in isolated areas and
encourage Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) to follow the North East LEP's
approach to improving careers support for young people.
► Local Authorities should all become accredited Living Wage employers and
encourage others in their communities to do likewise.
► Central Government should launch a fund to enable Schools in rural and coastal
areas to partner with other Schools to boost attainment.
► Regional School Commissioners should be given responsibility to work with
Universities, Schools and Teach 1st to ensure that there is a good supply of
teachers in all parts of their regions.
► The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should match the
Department for Education's ₤72 million for the Opportunity Areas to ensure there
is a collaborative effort across local education systems and labour markets.
► Central Government should rebalance the national transport budget to deliver a
more equal share of investment per person and contribute towards a more
regionally balanced economy.