Archive for the ‘Social Mobility’ Category

Social Mobility Report 2012 of Alan Milburn

jeudi, mai 31st, 2012

The Politics Live blog of Andrew Sparrow in the on-line Guardian of 30th May, 2012 , provides a useful summary of the key points of the Social Mobility Report by Alan Milburn as reproduced below:

Here are the key points.

? Milburn says the professions generally remain a « closed shop » to applicants from poor background and that attempts to open them up over recent years have made little progress.

The question posed by this report is whether the growth in professional employment is producing a social mobility dividend for our country. The short answer is not yet.

Milburn says across the professions as a whole, « the glass ceiling has been scratched, but not broken ».

The senior ranks of the professions are a closed shop. If social mobility is to become anything other than a pipedream they will have to open up. Unfortunately, the evidence collected for this report suggests that there is only, at best, limited progress being made in prising open the professions. That is not about to change any time soon. Data collected for this report indicates that the next generation of our country’s lawyers, doctors and journalists are likely to be a mirror image of previous generations.

? He says medicine has made « far too little progress » and shown « far too little interest » in improving access to people from poor backgrounds.

Medicine lags behind other professions both in the focus and in the priority it accords to these issues. It has a long way to go when it comes to making access fairer, diversifying its workforce and raising social mobility. There is no sense of the sort of galvanised effort that the Neuberger Report induced in law. That is regrettable, not least because when it comes to both gender and race, medicine has made impressive progress over recent years … The profession itself recognises that the skills which modern doctors require include far greater understanding of the social and economic backgrounds of the people they serve. That is a welcome recognition. It now needs to be matched by action. Overall, medicine has made far too little progress and shown far too little interest in the issue of fair access. It needs a step change in approach.

He says one particular problem is that students need work experience to get into medical school, but that access to this is « often unstructured and informal.

We could uncover little systematic effort on the part of the medical profession to address this palpable unfairness ».

? He says journalism has gone backwards more than any other profession in becoming less open to people from poor backgrounds.

This report finds that journalism has shifted to a greater degree of social exclusivity than any other profession. Without a single representative or regulatory body, responsibility for bringing about change to the media sector sits with organisations’ boards, senior staff, editors, and human resources teams. Our sense is that current efforts are fragmented and lacking in any real vigour. Journalism, with some honourable exceptions, does not seem to take the issue of fair access seriously. Where it has focused on the issue, it has prioritised race and gender but not socio­-economic diversity. That needs to change.

He also says the media industry is the « worst offender » when it comes to abusing internships.

What seems to distinguish journalism from other professions is that interns are substitutes for what in other sectors would be regarded as functions carried out by mainstream paid employees. The practice in much of the media industry is more akin to treating interns as free labour. The problem with that is self-evident. It is possible only for those who can afford to work for free. It means that others ? perhaps with equal or better claims on a career in journalism ? are excluded from consideration.

? He says all the major political parties « continue to select parliamentary candidates who are disproportionately drawn from better-off backgrounds ».

Of the Coalition Cabinet in May 2010, 59% were educated privately. Some 32% of the final Cabinet under the previous Labour Government were also educated privately. Over recent years, the political parties have made some progress on selecting women and candidates from minority ethnic backgrounds. A similar effort is now needed on their part when it comes to diversifying the socio-economic backgrounds of those they select to be their candidates for MPs.

? He says the civil service has « made progress » in relation to improving access.

In 2009, 45% of senior civil servants were privately educated. Today, of the 200 top civil servants, 27% were privately educated.

? He says the legal profession is starting to make « real efforts » to improve access, but that progress is still « too slow ».

In some cases the legal sector is at the forefront of driving activity aimed at changing access to professional jobs, whether this is through co-ordinated outreach programmes or by introducing socio-economic data collection. We commend these efforts and would like to see other professions following suit. There is, however, a lot more that needs to be done. The further up the profession you go, the more socially exclusive it becomes. Even more worryingly, entry to the law ? and therefore the lawyers of the future ? is still too socially exclusive. Overall, law is on the right track. But its progress is too slow. It needs to significantly accelerate.

? He says the government has shown « good intentionality » on the issue of achieving fair access to the professions.

Overall the Government has shown good intentionality when it comes to trying to improve fair access to a professional career, even though it is making more progress in some areas than in others. It needs to be more holistic in its approach and ensure that its efforts are better co-ordinated.

Milburn says the social mobility business compact published by Nick Clegg last year « is to be commended » and he says ministers should publish an annual update on how it is being implemented.

? He says that internships should « no longer be treated as part of the informal economy » because of their importance to young people’s career prospects.

The government should find a way of kitemarking quality internships, he says. And there should be transparent and fair selection procedures.

? He says he will soon be publishing two more reports, one on access to universities and one about what the government is doing to tackle child poverty and improve social mobility.

UK Riots – Broken Penal System

jeudi, septembre 8th, 2011

Writing in the Guardian and blaming a broken penal system the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has entered the debate on the causes of the recent riots in the UK. His measured intervention is in contrast to some of the typically knee-jerk reactions of politicians up till now, of using the riots to justify their own favourite themes rather than awaiting a more thorough analysis of the root causes.
In defence of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has said that the riots were not connected with poverty, has described them as criminality pure and simple and blamed what he has termed the broken society of Britain, there was a need to demonstrate strong leadership without the luxury of more time to reflect in front of the media. However, he has ruled out an investigation into the root causes of the unrest. The Labour party opposition is typically blaming the cuts in public services by the government despite these not yet having come into effect, although their leader, Ed. Miliband, has at least acknowledged the possible impact on national morality of delinquent MPs, greedy bankers and tax-avoiding, high-profile business people. He also wanted a public review of the causes of the riots.
The Justice Secretary has blamed the riots on a broken penal system that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hard-core offenders i.e. the criminal classes. He has revealed that almost 75% of those aged over 18 and charged with offences committed during the riots, had prior convictions. This demonstrated a need for urgent penal reform to stop re-offending among what he termed a feral underclass, cut off from mainstream society in everything apart from its materialism. He, therefore, called for a renewed government mission to address the appalling social deficit revealed by the riots.
Speaking from his long experience in government, including being Inner-Cities Minister 25 years ago, Kenneth Clarke considers the general recipe for a productive member of society is about having a job, a strong family and a decent education, accompanied by an attitude which shares the values of mainstream society. However, while the government is still resisting calls for a public inquiry, the first attempt at an empirical study of the causes and consequences of the riots has already been announced by the Guardian and the London School of Economics.

UK Riots & Moral Decay

vendredi, septembre 2nd, 2011

Writing in a provocative article about the recent UK riots in the news blog of The Telegraph of 2 September, 2011, Peter Oborne who is chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, views the root cause as the moral decay which is as bad at the top as the bottom of British society.
He considers the entire British political class right to denounce the rioters and to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support. However, he also found something very phoney and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament when MPs spoke about the week?s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
He believes that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
Although he stresses that most people continue to believe in honesty and decency, hard work and putting back into society at least as much as they take out, there are those who do not. The so-called feral youth for example seem oblivious to decency and morality but so also are the venal rich and powerful – and he quotes examples in his article ? including too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians.
Mr Oborne notes that most of the venal rich and powerful are smart and wealthy enough to make sure that they obey the law although this cannot be said of the sad young men and women, without hope or aspiration, who have caused such mayhem and chaos in the riots. However, in their defence the rioters were just following the example set by senior and respected figures in society.
We must bear in mind that many of the youths in our inner cities have never been trained in decent values. Our politicians and bankers, in sharp contrast, tend to have been to good schools and universities and to have been given every opportunity in life.

Analysis of UK Rioters

mercredi, août 24th, 2011

Further to the article on the UK riots of two weeks ago (see Categories/Chairmans Blog/Social Mobility/UK Riots 2011 in the right-hand index column), analysis shows that the vast majority of those appearing in court were young, poor and male. Of the first 1000 cases, 90% of those charged were men, with less than 10% either studying or in employment and two-thirds aged under 25. The neighbourhoods they come from are depressed, two-thirds of these areas having got poorer between 2007 and 2010. In addition and according to the police, 60% of those charged in London already had previous convictions and 25% were known to be linked to gangs.
These rioters in the main belong within a group of people without skills, education or hope for the future. They seem detached from what we consider the social norm i.e. they remain outside normal society, are angry and alienated and, therefore, are perceived as a threat. They inhabit a social and emotional vacuum, are often the children of single or absent parents with no supporting family structure or adults they value and respect, to lay down the generally accepted rules of civilised society such as respect for the rule of law and the rights of their fellow citizens.
As Prince Charles suggested when meeting those impacted by the Tottenham riots, rather than just the results of pure criminal behaviour, was not gang membership for example also the logical extension of a basic human need for a social framework, to belong, to find identity, pride, camaraderie and purpose, as well as offering an albeit criminal means of taking a share of the goods available within our consumer society.
Writing today in a letter to the Times newspaper, Sir Michael Howard recalls his experience of joining gangs in his younger days, starting out at his first boarding school at the age of 9 and later joining more prestigious ones at his house at school, college at university and his regiment when joining the army. Although this example is taken from a vastly different level in society, it serves to illustrate the basic human need for a social framework. Sir Michael does not see why young people today should be denied the chance of acquiring such social skills because they cannot afford to learn them as expensively as he did.
Prince Charles also comes from an even more privileged and protected background but his instincts ring true. His charities and trusts have achieved a lot on youth unemployment and exclusion and he should, therefore, be listened to when the government reviews whether its current social and community policies are sufficient to avoid a recurrence of the recent riots. In the UK, there is a growing divide between rich and poor, not least in the respective perception of each side by the other. This perception gap needs to be bridged in developing through sharing these important middle-class-type, social skills key to finding e.g. good training and good jobs for their children.

UK Riots 2011

mercredi, août 17th, 2011

Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, last week blamed Coalition Government cuts (which have not even taken effect yet!) for the riots in major city centres in the UK. This then conveniently ignores not poverty in the UK which is relative, not to blame and not anywhere near the deprivations experienced in parts of the developing world, but the failure of policies of the previous Labour Government in the key areas of schools, work and the home.
Wasted ? The Betrayal of White Working Class and Black Caribbean Boys by Harriet Sergeant is published by the Centre for Policy Studies and quotes the damning statistics on illiteracy that came out just before the riots. These statistics showed that at the age of 14 years, 63% of white working class and over 50% of black Caribbean boys have a reading age of seven years or less; around 50% of 16-year-olds also have no basic qualifications in English or mathematics.
As an American friend of mine commented after watching on television the riots and resulting wanton destruction, everything seemingly of value to the rioters appeared to be looted and trashed apart from one lone bookshop which remained undisturbed! Indeed from the US Department of Justice there is evidence that the failure to learn to read at school can lead to such a level of frustration that, if sustained, can cause aggressive antisocial behaviour and delinquency. Thus according to Harriet Sergeant, half the prison population has a reading age less than that of an 11-year-old. Even if you are clever, the school system can still work against you when streaming according to ability is abolished as elitist and leads to boredom amongst cleverer pupils through lack of challenge.
There is also the effect of the change in the job market with a lot less jobs in manufacturing to absorb those leaving school at 16 years. In addition, our disadvantaged youths find themselves in competition with skilled and capable immigrants with a better work ethic. The generosity of the current benefits system is a further contributing factor in making the lower paid jobs taken by immigrants even less financially attractive for our own unemployed.
Finally there has been a failure in the home where politicians are demanding that parents control their children. However, whether at home or at school there is a lack of guidance and support from adults, particularly in the case of young single mothers, with the UK in addition having the highest rate for teenage pregnancies in Europe. As an example, mothers of young children considered at risk are five times more likely to be single teenage mothers. Despite this, since 1997 a single mother of two children has had her benefits increased by 85%. In responding to this financial incentive, young girls leaving school with no qualifications seem to get pregnant as naturally as their male counterparts turn to crime. The state has now taken over the role of both husband and employer in such homes where there is no family to even breakdown and where over 50% of single mothers have never even lived with the father of their children.
Harriet Sergeant concludes that for such young people to have a stake in our society, apart from the need for improved schooling we have to create jobs. This of course is one key growth policy aim of the Coalition to offset the effects of cuts in government spending.

Primary School Education

mercredi, août 10th, 2011

The national curriculum in the UK is currently being reviewed by an independent commission which should be given further food for thought this year with one third of children (around 180,000) leaving primary school at the age of 11 years, without reaching the required standards in reading, writing and arithmetic. National test (SATS tests) results also showed more than 30,000 of these 11-year-olds leaving the primary school stage with a reading age of seven years or less. The largest group of underachievers were those from disadvantaged homes usually with few books and where education is not necessarily valued, the sole responsibility then falling upon the schools to teach these children what they need to know.
Traditionally such teaching used to be based on instilling a core knowledge of history, geography, art, music, English, mathematics and science. However, this system of knowledge-based education seems to have been discarded in favour of more progressive ideas which are aimed at developing thinking skills through child-centred teaching, rather than the subject?centred teaching associated in the past also with rote-learning. This current progressive emphasis on putting the learner child at the centre poses less problems for the middle class child with supportive and aspiring parents it would appear, than those from disadvantaged homes requiring new experiences beyond the limited confines of their local community.
Children as in previous generations can still be taught how to think for themselves but they will be better prepared to think and make more sense of the knowledge-based, modern society around them, if this can also be based on an acquired and broader subject knowledge. If this core knowledge base is then decided by the teacher rather than relying on the individual child to decide what is important, at least all will start junior school with the same basic grounding.
This could be one small step perhaps towards reducing the number of children entering the feral, uneducated under-class currently rioting, vandalising and looting in major UK city centres.

UK Elite Universities

jeudi, juillet 14th, 2011

Further to the previous article on social mobility and the Sutton Trust Higher Education Report (see Categories/Chairmans Blog/Social Mobility/Higher Education Report in the right-hand index column), 40% of the 56,000 students who have gained A-level grades of AAB or higher are concentrated in only nine universities in England: Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, London School of Economics, Bristol, Exeter, Warwick, Imperial College London and University College London. These nine universities also have more than 60% of their students admitted with grades AAB, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Now a government white paper released last month will allow all universities (currently with their total numbers of students limited by the state) to attract as many students as they can with A-level grades of at least AAB. A competing market for such top grade students will result with e.g. some universities offering scholarships to attract students with the highest grades. On the other hand, others might decide not to increase class sizes in order not to erode the quality of the student experience. However, overall the reform is expected to further concentrate students with the highest grades in the above elite group of universities, depriving in turn mid-ranking but competing universities of such recruits and forcing them to lower their fees from the maximum £9000 per year. This could lead to a form of social sorting between cheaper and more expensive universities according to Martin Hall , Vice-Chancellor of Salford University(average fees £8,400 per year).
Sir Steve Smith, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University (one of the elite group) also warns that this high grades policy could be in conflict with government attempts to promote social mobility if it deters some universities from trying to attract higher potential applicants with lower grades from poorly performing schools. However, the response of the government is that universities can still take advantage of bursaries and payments from the new National Scholarship Scheme to maintain their levels of students from poorer families.
Lord Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University and Chairman of the BBC Trust, is not in favour of what he calls such positive discrimination. Although he is in favour of the principle of promoting social mobility, he considers it perverse that plans to be published by universities on how they intend to attract poorer students, could make it easier for such students to go to Oxford or Cambridge rather than say a much less prominent university.

Sutton Trust Higher Education report, July 2011

samedi, juillet 9th, 2011

The Sutton Trust is an educational charity and this just published report is the first detailed, school-by-school analysis of data on the higher education destinations of pupils for 2007-2009. Its author, John O?Leary, considers that its real value will be to allow parents to judge how successful schools are at getting their students into the 30 most selective universities, or indeed into any university.
The results show that 100 (84 independent and 16 grammar) schools accounted for 31% of Oxbridge admissions. Westminster School, Eton, St Paul?s School and St Paul?s Girls? School in London and Hills Road 6th form College in Cambridge alone, accounted for 946 Oxbridge entrants and exceeded the total of 927 Oxbridge students produced by the 2000 lowest-performing schools.
For the highest attaining schools, 87% of applicants from independent schools and 74% of applicants from grammar schools obtained a place at one of the top 30 universities but only 58% of those at comprehensive schools.
However, the research has been criticised by leading universities which since 2006 have spent a lot of money on outreach work with schools to justify the major increases in tuition fees charged to their students. They say that it relies too much on the A-level points system and does not distinguish enough between types of subject or achievement of the high grades required to secure entry to their universities.
It seems that one reason for the disparity in achievements is that independent schools tend to teach the more traditional subjects that leading universities want, whereas many comprehensives encourage their pupils to take so-called softer or easier A-levels or more vocational qualifications, to increase their points (and relative positions) in the A-level league tables. Indeed over the past 15 years there has been a significant decrease in the numbers of traditional subjects studied in comprehensive schools and local colleges. There is also the question of choice of university made by able pupils at some comprehensives, as university destinations varied widely between such schools with otherwise similar patterns of results.
Whatever the reasons for this stark demonstration by the Sutton Trust report of the inequality of achievement within the higher education system, it should not make comfortable reading for the current Coalition government with its concern to improve social mobility.

Early Years Intervention

mercredi, février 16th, 2011

Following on from the government-supported work of Labour MP Frank Field on the social mobility importance of the critical first years in the development of a child, a January 2011 government-commissioned report led again by a Labour MP (Graham Allen) recommends regular assessments of all pre-school children, focussing on their social and emotional development. In assessing how children from disadvantaged backgrounds could be given the best start in life, the report recommends early intervention to improve the lives of vulnerable children and help break the otherwise current cycle of dysfunction and under-achievement. Since success or failure in early childhood also has deep economic consequences in later life e.g. in terms of social welfare payments from the government and taxpayers when public funds are limited, more private money is called for to support early intervention schemes to help set up children on the right path in life.
A summary of this report by Katherine Sellgren, a BBC News education reporter, can be found at . In her summary she also notes that the report highlights the impact of poor parenting skills, American research that shows the early years are the greatest period of growth in the human brain and, again from the US, the successful US Family Nurse Partnership scheme which could serve as a potential model for vulnerable first-time mothers in the UK.
An independent, Early Intervention Foundation is recommended to drive early intervention forward, assess policies and attract investment. This should be led and funded by non-central government sources such as local authorities, ethical and philanthropic trusts, foundations and charities, as well as private investors some of whom have already expressed interest.
A second report from Mr Allen is expected before the summer parliamentary recess and with more details on how private sector money can fund proven early intervention schemes. Perhaps this will also be seen as an opportunity for the City of London bankers seeking to reduce the level of public opprobrium attached to their perceived excessive salaries and bonuses, to support such a worthy cause (see Categories/Chairman?s Blog/Bonuses & Competition in the right hand index column), taking again as an example the US, whose citizens once they have prospered are not only expected to, but also do, put money back into good works in the community.

Educational Excellence

mardi, janvier 11th, 2011

It seems that although only some 7% of all secondary school pupils in the UK are privately educated and around 14% sitting A-level examinations are from private/independent schools, these young people comprise 25% of all university entrants and over 40% for Oxford and Cambridge universities. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, considers this more the result of the lower A-level attainment performance of state school pupils rather than accepting the position adopted by Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader and also now the Coalition government advisor on access to higher education. Mr Hughes sees the universities as having failed to take more students from disadvantaged backgrounds and has suggested universities should aim to limit their privately-educated intake to the same (i.e. 7 or 14%) proportion of all (private plus state), secondary school pupils.
While still in opposition, the Conservatives pledged to transform these underperforming state schools through the creation of Free Schools, based on experience from such reforms in Sweden and the US. Now in Coalition government, it becomes necessary to bring their Liberal Democrat partners within a common Free School policy drive but which takes time. Considering the strong and seemingly inflexible union opposition already lined up against the practical implementation of the Free Schools policy, and the key importance to the UK of excellence in education for its young people, the challenge for David Cameron might then be seen by some as having a certain resonance with the situation Mrs Thatcher faced with the National Union of Miners. Those who disagree with this policy of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, include the National Union of Teachers (NUT), another teaching union the NASUWT and the Anti-Academies Alliance (AAA), backed by others such as the RMT transport union and its general secretary Bob Crow, together with the Fire Brigades Union and the GMB.
Already in a letter to the Times last Sunday, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, is citing the decline in educational standards in Sweden and quoting Bertil Ostberg, the Swedish Education Minister, as having declared that their free schools (three-quarters of which are run by profit-making companies) had been a failure and warning the British government not to introduce them. Ms Blower also says that the NUT is not complacent about standards in schools but suggests a better example to follow in improving education would be Finland, top of all international educational comparison tables and with a truly comprehensive system.
It is good to learn that Michael Gove is already responding to the challenge and planning a high-profile promotion of Free Schools around the Country, to accelerate progress and counter the opposition of unions and hostile councils on the ground. In the meantime, Alasdair Smith, National Secretary of the AAA, accuses Labour of complacency, considering the scale of what he sees happening. There again, it was in the year 2000 that David Blunkett for Labour first announced the creation of City Academies, similar to Free Schools in being outside local council control and also campaigned against by the educational establishment. Tony Blair, Labour Prime Minister at the time, wanted these Academies to replace the (his) quote – Bog Standard – unquote Comprehensive Schools, which have resulted from nearly 50 years of decline in educational excellence in the UK.