Education and aspiration key factors in improving social mobility to level up Britain.

January 30, 2020 7:24 PM

Lord Shipley"Much has been promised by the new Government to level up Britain, " John, Lord Shipley, the former Leader of the Liberal Democrtas administration when they controlled Newcastle, has told the House of Lords. "That levelling up seems to prioritise infrastructure investment, but it must surely also include investment in education and training, given that recent cuts in public spending have impacted negatively at all stages of education."

He went on : "There is evidence in some parts of England that, whereas primary schools in general perform very well, secondary schools perform less well. That clearly makes social mobility more difficult for young people, and we need to understand far better than we do why that is. Aspiration may be a factor. For that reason, the private sector has a key role in those areas in providing higher-grade jobs than just those paying the minimum wage and in providing progression opportunities. Deep cuts in Further Education budgets have been a source of concern, and for that reason a 16 to 19 student premium would be a boost to help young people who do not follow the traditional academic route into university. It would also help employers to recruit better-skilled employees.

"I spent over 30 years of my professional life working for the Open University. I saw with my own eyes what could be achieved by those who took up higher education later in life. Yet, since 2011, the number of university entrants in England from low-participation areas of the country has fallen by a sixth. Crucially, this drop has been caused by a 50% fall in the number of part-time HE students from low-participation areas. Only a small proportion of those transferred to full-time higher education. The majority are not participating at all, and those most deterred from entering higher education are the older students who cannot afford to carry debt. They need financial help.

"Finally, we must try to stem the migration of those who feel they must leave their communities to study by increasing opportunities locally that are affordable."