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Social Mobility Conference 2024 - People and places: innovation and opportunities for all

Event date:
Event time: TBC
Location: TBC

This event is being postponed due to the upcoming general election. We will update with additional details as soon as possible

At the Social Mobility Commission, we are committed to making a difference for people across the UK. As you know, improving social mobility is an ambition that bridges many divides, so we are pleased to be supported by a broad range of individuals and organisations.

On 25th June we are hosting our first conference to consider the key issues for social mobility and policy priorities over the coming years. We are particularly keen to explore how we promote opportunity for all people in all places and will cover four areas of policy focus that can drive social mobility and address the challenges that our State of the Nation 2023 report highlighted. 

We will host two panels, each addressing a key topic:

  • Is there a collective responsibility for enabling social mobility? 
  • How would a place-based approach to social mobility improve outcomes?

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Sarah Cattan, Associate Director in the Education and Skills sector, IFS
  • Polly Curtis, Chief Executive, Demos
  • Anne Longfield CBE, Executive Chair, Centre for Young Lives
  • Henri Murison, Chief Executive, Northern Powerhouse Partnership
  • Jonathan Simons, Partner and Head of the Education Practice, Public First
  • Andy Westwood, Professor of Government Practice, University of Manchester

Please note, registration via the website is for online attendance only. We have a limited number of in person spaces available to attend the event in London, please email to find out more.

About our speakers

Sarah Cattan, Associate Director in the Education and Skills sector, IFS

Dr Sarah Cattan joined Nesta in 2023 from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, where she is also an Associate Director in the education and skills team. Her research focuses on the origins of inequality within and across generations and the role that early childhood policy can play to increase the life chances of disadvantaged children. Sarah is principal or co-investigator across more than 12 grant-funded research projects and she is the author of more than 14 publications and working papers. She has worked on evaluations of key early years policies in the UK, including Sure Start and the free entitlement to childcare. While at the IFS, Sarah also worked as a Teaching Fellow at University College London (UCL). She has a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago.

Polly Curtis, Chief Executive, Demos

Polly Curtis is Chief Executive of Demos. Polly spent much of her career at the Guardian where she reported on health, social affairs and education, before joining the lobby team as Whitehall Editor, writing about government and policy. She went on to be digital editor of the Guardian, then led newsrooms as Editor-in-Chief at HuffPost UK, a Partner at Tortoise Media and Managing Director at PA Media. Her book, Behind Closed Doors, an investigation into social services in England, was published by Virago in February 2022 and was a finalist in the Orwell Prize for political writing. In it, she sets a vision for a different way that the state and communities can work together to solve problems. She serves as a trustee of the Public Interest News Foundation, as well as a Non-Executive Director of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Anne Longfield CBE, former Children’s Commissioner

Anne is a passionate champion for children, influencing and shaping the national debate and policy agenda for children and their families.  She has spent the last three decades working to improve the life chances of children, particularly the most vulnerable.  She has recently founded and become Executive Chair of the Centre for Young Lives – a new, dynamic, innovative, independent think tank and delivery unit dedicated exclusively to improving the lives of children, young people, and families in the UK.  She previously established and chaired the Commission on Young Lives, an independent commission to develop proposals for a new national system to prevent crisis in vulnerable young people and support them to succeed in life.  From March 2015 to February 2021, Anne was the Children’s Commissioner for England,  championing the rights and interests of children with those in power who make decisions about children’s lives.  Anne previously led a national children’s charity and also worked on the delivery of the Sure Start programme in the No 10 Strategy Unit.  Anne is the Independent Chair of the NHS Children and Young People Learning Disability and Autism Board,  a non-executive director of the Bradford Children and Family Trust and board member of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.  She was previously a member of the Times Education Commission.  Anne regularly authors articles and her new book, Young Lives, Big Ambitions is published in April 2024. She has honorary doctorates from Newcastle Upon Tyne and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

Henri Murison, Chief Executive, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Since his appointment as Chief Executive in 2017, Henri has established the Northern Powerhouse Partnership as the business led organisation which convenes the North together. From having made the case consistently for both HS2 to the North alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail, to challenging for a better deal for the most disadvantaged from the education system, his team are focused on how government, business and partners can drive the North’s ambitions. Before joining the Partnership, he worked in senior research and policy roles in policing and financial services, and as a former senior local government figure in Newcastle upon Tyne remains a commentator on regional and wider industrial policy. Since 2020 he has also served as a member of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee, as well as last year being appointed to the Court of Newcastle University.

Jonathan Simons, Partner and Head of the Education Practice, Public First

Jonathan Simons is a Partner, and Head of the Education Practice, at the strategy and public policy consultancy Public First, which works with some of the biggest organisations in English education to help them address policy questions, shape their message and engage with government. Jonathan has spent the past nineteen years working in and with government on education issues – eight years in government including 2.5 years in the No10 Strategy Unit; as the Head of Education for the think tank Policy Exchange; and working in international education for the global charity Varkey Foundation. In these roles, he has written extensively on all elements of the English education system and is a frequent conference speaker, media commentator, and columnist. Jonathan is a Trustee of Education Development Trust, a Member of Astrea Academy Trust, and the co-founder of Ark Greenwich Free School. He sits on advisory boards for Teach First, Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation, Impetus, and the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) at UCL.

Andy Westwood, Professor, Government Practice, University of Manchester

Andy is Professor of Government Practice and a director of the Productivity Institute at the University of ManchesterHe is a governor at NIESR and at the University of Wolverhampton and an advisory board member at the Bennett Institute at Cambridge University. He has also worked as an expert adviser to the EU, the IMF and the OECD and for the Economic Affairs Committee in the House of Lords.  He worked as a special adviser to UK ministers on science and innovation, education and skills during the last Labour government.