Documents to download

Successive studies and reports have identified educational attainment as one of the factors that influence an individual’s ability to improve their socio-economic position in life. The educational opportunities available to children and young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are therefore important to social mobility.

The Social Mobility Commission, which monitors progress towards improving social mobility in the UK and promotes social mobility in England, has reported on inequalities within the education sector between disadvantaged children and young people and their more advantaged peers. It has reached the following conclusions about key educational stages applicable to young people:

  • Early years: children from working-class backgrounds still suffer disadvantages compared to their more affluent peers, even from birth.
  • Schools: disadvantaged pupils start schooling behind their peers in terms of attainment, but good schooling can increase their chances of getting a well-paid job in the future.
  • Further education and apprenticeships: twice the number of disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds are in further education than in school sixth forms, meaning further education institutions are a key tool for improving social mobility.
  • Higher education: increasing numbers of students from low income families are entering university by age 19, although their better off peers are still much more likely to do so.

Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 includes a public sector duty to reduce inequalities of outcome resulting from socio-economic inequalities. This duty has not been brought into force in England because governments at Westminster have decided not to take the provision forward. They have instead introduced or continued policies aimed at helping improve educational opportunities for children and young people from lower-income backgrounds. In contrast, the Scottish Government has brought the duty into force and the Welsh Government has consulted on doing likewise in 2020.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Higher education: Contribution to the economy and levelling up

    The economic output of the UK higher education sector is estimated to be at least £116bn and graduates often experience better employment outcomes than non-graduates. Improving skills features in the government’s levelling up strategy and ministers have said that higher education institutions play a vital part in supporting regional economies. However, some stakeholders have criticised the government’s plans to restrict access to certain higher education courses and for not putting enough emphasis on the benefits provided by the sector.

    Higher education: Contribution to the economy and levelling up
  • Poverty in the UK: Government policy

    There were approximately 11 million people in the UK in relative poverty (before housing costs) in 2021/22. Many people on low incomes receive cash benefits, such as universal credit, and other benefits such as free school meals. In its levelling up strategy the government set out measures to address poverty; these include increasing the number of high-paying jobs and improving access to good quality education and skills training.

    Poverty in the UK: Government policy
  • Mental health, wellbeing and personal development in schools

    Schools are required to provide support for the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. Sex, relationships and citizenship education are also included in the national curriculum. This briefing considers the government’s policy on mental health in schools and the current requirements for personal, social, health and economic education. It also summarises recent scrutiny of exam pressure in schools and citizenship education by House of Lords committees.

    Mental health, wellbeing and personal development in schools