Damian Hinds, social mobility and some key truths
Myths, delusions and truths about social mobility
There was a Westminster Hall debate last week, led by Tory MP, Damian Hinds, on Social Mobility. Hinds is Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility which has just produced an ‘Interim’ report on Social Mobility.
There is much nonsense talked about social mobility, generally, and evidence produced and cherry picked to suit particular agendas, with some of it of pretty dubious quality. Alan Milburn,who advises the government on social mobility, when given the opportunity by the Times recently, to expound on the subject, droned on about removing private schools charity status, (it’s a bit of a persistent bee in his bonnet) as if this was a key lever to improve social mobility. What a wasted opportunity! The think tank Civitas’ report ‘ Social Mobility Delusions’ helps rebalance the facts and arguments. England is, apparently, more socially mobile than Germany, France and Italy, according to sociologist Peter Saunders, the report’s author and ‘Social mobility is the norm in Britain, not the exception, and it occurs in both directions across the entire range of the occupational class structure’. You may not believe this and think that it is counterintuitive nonsense, but the report encourages one to look a little more carefully at the objective facts and also challenges some of the research being published by the Sutton Trust, which has such an influence on the current debate. The Trust is the nearest thing we have to motherhood and apple pie when it comes to matters related to educational disadvantage and social mobility so there is no harm in putting their research into the spotlight.(It was Anthony Sampsons ‘Anatomy of Britain’ in the 1960s which first raised issues about the privileged public school elite running the country)
The All -party Groups Interim report seems to make quite a lot of sense. Usefully, Hinds reiterated in the Westminster Hall debate the seven basic truths they identified about social mobility.
‘First, the point of greatest leverage is what happens between the ages of 0 and 3, right at the start of life. That means primarily at home. Secondly, the cycle may be broken through education. Thirdly, the single most important controllable factor in education is the quality of teachers and teaching. Fourthly, what happens not just at school, but after the school bell rings—in the evenings and at weekends and in the holidays—is relevant. Fifthly, university is the most important swing factor of achievements later in life. Pre-18 attainment dictates whether someone gets there, so pre-18 attainment is key. Sixthly, people should not give up, because it is possible to get back on the ladder and to go up it. Later pathways to mobility are possible as long as the will and the support are there. Seventhly, personal resilience and emotional well-being are the missing link in the chain, and permeate those different levels and life stages.’
Note- Conor Ryan who was an adviser to David Blunkett has just joined the Sutton Trust