The social mobility czar has called on leaders to put social mobility “at the heart” of stepping up as a new index to track where people start and end in life is unveiled.
Presenting the State of the Nation 2022 report on Thursday, Social Mobility Commission (SMC) chair Katharine Birbalsingh said the framework was designed to better inform those who make policy, as policy advice rely on “elaborate guesswork” without better data.
“We want governments, both local and national, to put social mobility at the heart of leveling advancement, using the results of our Index to inform and measure success and ensure that its benefits are shared reach those who need it most.” Ms Birbalsingh said.
She added that any future social mobility policy must be “firmly based on solid evidence”.
The report’s newly developed Social Mobility Index will, for the first time, monitor “actual mobility” by comparing a person’s circumstances at birth to their results in their 30s and 50s.
The end result will hopefully “provide the reasons why social mobility is happening, when it’s happening and why some people are bucking the trend,” Ms Birbalsingh said.
The 2022 State of the Union report also included findings from the first phase of research.
The SMC’s most worrying initial results showed that two-thirds of disadvantaged students and more than a third of all other students at GCSE do not achieve high marks in English and Maths.
In the 2020-2021 school year, only 31.7% of disadvantaged students achieved a grade of 5 or higher in GCSE English and Mathematics, compared to 59.2% of all other students.
Anthony Heath, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Oxford, who helped develop the new Social Mobility Index, said he drew on international research to create a “pioneering framework” for monitoring and understanding the evolution of mobility opportunities to offer young people.
“It will provide early signs of obstacles that need to be addressed so we can get to a level playing field,” he said.
The SMC will seek consistency with its Social Mobility Index over time so that the data can be compared annually – and at longer intervals of five or ten years – to show trends in social mobility.
Ms Birbalsingh, who was appointed chair of the commission in 2021, previously stressed the importance of not confusing social mobility and inequality, adding that society needs to find a new way to shape social mobility that breaks the narrative “from rags to riches” repeals .
“We get distracted too often by this romantic Hollywood movie where you were born at the bottom and now you’re at the top and so on,” she said.
“But most of us don’t really want to be Prime Minister and we don’t want to be millionaires – what we want is to find a job where we can find meaning and express our talents.”