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This House of Lords Library briefing has been prepared in advance of a debate that is scheduled to take place in the House on 27 October 2016 on the following motion:

Lord Holmes of Richmond to move that this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to promote social mobility.

On appointment as Prime Minister, Theresa May made clear her intention to “build a society that works for everyone” and to promote a “great meritocracy”. The Government has announced several new initiatives to help achieve this aim. These include the development of six new (geographical) opportunity areas to target resources in identified areas of low social mobility, the further development of the National Citizen Service and a package of education proposals, including the expansion of grammar schools. This briefing focuses on these three subjects. 

The briefing also presents information on recent reports including by the House of Lords Social Mobility Committee, and statistics published by the Social Mobility Commission. Factsheets published by the Commission in August 2016 state that:

  • 51 percent of children eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development at age five in 2015 compared to 69 percent of other children.
  • Children in the wealthiest areas are 12 percent more likely to go to a good primary school and are almost 25 percent more likely to go to a good secondary school than children from the most deprived areas.
  • A degree does not have the same value for all graduates. Even when institution and subject is accounted for, students from higher income families earn around 10 percent more. In addition Black African qualifiers are 14 percent less likely than their white peers to be in professional work six months after graduation.

The factsheets summarise findings from the Commission’s State of the Nation 2015 Annual Report on the progress that Great Britain has made towards improving social mobility and reducing child poverty. This Library briefing concludes with a discussion of different views on social mobility.


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