The weekend papers saw a flurry of social mobility news with Alan Milburn’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission publishing a new index of disadvantage and the Prime Minister challenging our leading universities to “go the extra mile” in recruiting students from a wider range of backgrounds.
In recent weeks the Government has taken a big step in refocusing the debate on poverty towards a life chance agenda, removing blunt monetary measures of poverty and looking at what drives poverty and reduces the life chances of our poorest children. The next giant leap will be for the Prime Minister’s Life Chances Agenda to be rooted in transparent, local metrics of poverty putting pressure on those areas who are holding back their poorest young people.
The “big question” the Prime Minister should ask is of those preparing our young people for life beyond the school gates. A 2014 study by the Sutton Trust found that more than four-in-10 teachers “rarely or never” advise academically-gifted children to apply to our best Universities.
Why doesn’t every school sixth form have a Teacher dedicated to the task of preparing students for Oxbridge entry, encouraging higher aspiration and providing a guiding hand through the application process. We should be asking more of our underperforming schools not lowering standards of entry to our best institutions, this is surely the right approach?
David Cameron has shone a Prime Ministerial spotlight on child poverty, disadvantage and appalling social outcomes which truly do “shame our nation”.
It is now up policy makers charged with developing his Life Chances Agenda to develop localised metrics of disadvantage asking more of our education system to close the attainment gap between poorer and more affluent children long before their 18th birthday.