Social Immobility

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The following is an extract from Jenni Russell's Times column of October 25th.

"This summer the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a global survey of inequality, detailing how hard it is for individuals to escape their backgrounds. The UK’s social mobility is now so slow that it would take five generations for the poorest families to reach the average income. Statistically, even the majority of those who count as mobile are only moving into the next earnings decile in their lifetime, not vaulting to the top. It is indeed social creep.  These ladders worked for those born between the mid-Fifties and mid-Seventies. As the economy shifted from unskilled work to professional and services jobs, millions made a social leap. But it stalled for those born later, as the OECD’s report, A Broken Social Elevator?, makes clear.  ...

This week the OECD produced the latest of its social mobility reports, this time on education. It detailed a huge class divide, with disadvantaged children who are educated together performing much worse than those in schools with middle-class children. These underachieving schools can’t attract the best teachers so the vicious circle is complete. By 15, they are two and a half years behind their peers. The OECD also found that the poorest pupils were unhappier and more discouraged than in other developed countries, greatly affecting their chances of success. Fewer than one in six feel resilient, satisfied with their lives and integrated at school, compared with an OECD average of one in four. In the Netherlands the figure is 50 per cent.

The question is: are we serious about developing every child’s talents, raising the country’s levels of skill and happiness, or do we not really care? Increasing social mobility and life satisfaction are complex issues but other countries do better. We know what helps: excellent nursery education, great teachers in bad schools, calm classrooms, vocational careers, affordable housing, smaller wealth gaps, a secure social safety net and high-quality retraining courses to compensate for unstable jobs.  ...


Russell might have added 'a curriculum that makes sense for the 21st century with an appropriate balance of knowledge, skills, experiences, and ideas, and opportunities for everyone to learn both timeless and useful things'.  Some of those things must relate to the world around them: the ones they are inheriting which was the theme of the King's research on environmental education that I was writing about last week.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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