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State of the Nation 2022: A fresh approach to social mobility

The front cover of the State of the Nation 2022 report

Message from our Chair, Katharine Birbalsingh CBE and Deputy Chair, Alun Francis OBE:

It is a great privilege for us to be writing this, as the new Chair and Deputy Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, on the day we publish our annual report on social mobility in the UK:  State of the Nation 2022: A fresh approach to social mobility.  

The foundation of our work is the new Social Mobility Index, which we are publishing in our report today. The index pulls together innovative metrics carefully selected with input from experts in economics, sociology, and education. It provides clear definitions and measures of social mobility along with accurate data on progress and trends to be used by academics, researchers, policymakers and government.  The index and the report show that there is much to be encouraged about but also helps to focus on areas which need further attention. 

Our Agenda

Our ‘fresh approach’ is about broadening the scope of the Commission to look at social mobility across the board, including smaller steps up the social mobility ladder. For some examples, watch our video (4 mins)

We see social mobility as the process of enabling everyone to find and apply their talents in ways that they enjoy and give them purpose. We will be looking in detail at these core themes to identify policy solutions:

  1. Education – which includes early years, schools and universities, but also other routes such as further education and apprenticeships – and we will be keen to understand more about how we can help families and parents.
  2. Employment – going beyond large professional firms to look at the role of smaller businesses in generating opportunity, and at the value, or shortcomings, of certain qualifications.
  3. Enterprise & the economy – the creation of opportunities, their geographical spread

We want to bring a fresh approach and ask some important questions:

  • What to do for those young people and adults who have not followed the higher education pathway, but still need a route to higher skills and good occupational opportunities?
  • What more should be done about those at the very bottom – particularly those with low levels of basic literacy and numeracy?
  • What to do about the geographical aspects of this – local opportunities and outcomes?

And we want to pay attention to some of the issues that social mobility policy is not always comfortable talking about:

  • Diversity of talent – We believe cognitive ability is over-emphasised (for example, getting smart kids into top universities and jobs). Other talents and other jobs should be valued too.
  • Families are frequently mentioned, but mainly as vehicles for passing on privilege. There is a lot more to be said about family size, values, family drive and motivation – and how this influences outcomes.
  • Culture and values are sometimes acknowledged, but are not given sufficient weight. We should not underestimate their impact.

In case you missed it…

We were pleased to introduce the Commission’s agenda at our inaugural speech hosted by Policy Exchange earlier in the month. Find it here.