Last week the Government called on businesses, civil society and local communities to unite behind the common mission of boosting social mobility and ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to succeed in life. We know that we are in the midst of a social mobility crisis and the resignation of the Social Mobility Commissioners earlier this month only reinforces the scale of the problem. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds start their education eight months behind their wealthier peers and only fall further behind as they progress through each stage of their education. They are also more likely to suffer from mental ill health and are four times as likely to be permanently excluded. Not only do we have a moral imperative to rectify this, there is also an economic imperative. If we carry on down this road, the UK will cease to be competitive on a global stage.
Educational inequality is a complex issue. Too complex for one organisation, institution or even one government to solve in isolation. It is welcome that the Government has emphasised the importance of working in collaboration in the ‘widest coalition possible’ to tackle this issue. And that precisely why the Fair Education Alliance exists – we are a coalition of 95 businesses, education institutions, social enterprises and unions. Combining the talent and efforts of businesses, charities and educationalists provides us with a strong collective voice that we can use to drive the changes needed to improve young people’s lives.
As part of the Fair Education Alliance, members have worked around five Fair Education Impact Goals: early years, schools, wellbeing, careers and post-16 – all areas where the gap between the most disadvantaged young people and their wealthier peers is damagingly wide. It is therefore welcome to see the Department for Education adopt four of these five Fair Education Impact Goals as their key ‘Life Stage Ambitions’. Closing the gap at each of these phases will undoubtedly improve the life chances of so many young people. But while these ambitions are important, the development of softer skills and ensuring that all young people are emotionally healthy must also be a priority for Government - failing to make it such will result in us not achieving the four other ambitions.
Working together we can accelerate the rate of change and improve social mobility to ensure that all young people reach their potential.
Sam Butters, CEO of the Fair Education Alliance