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Blog: Mind the gap!

Jun 01, 2012

When the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown left office he said not dealing with the issue was his greatest regret; and now Nick Clegg has brought up the subject of social mobility again.

Actually, like Gordon before him, Mr Clegg is talking about the lack of social mobility for most youngsters in this country who do not come from an elite or privileged section of society.

The Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg says that the difference between schools in the state and private sector is ‘corrosive’ as new Government data shows children educated privately are three times more likely than state pupils to attain top A-Level grades.
Mr Clegg outlined a set of indicators to measure the impact of Government policies on social mobility, including those measuring the A-Level attainment gap between independent and state schools.

But, it has to be said, teachers are not responsible for the lack of social mobility in this country.
There are many dedicated and hardworking teachers who are striving to do the best they can to help create the future leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs of this country.

If politicians want social mobility to improve – and it came to a standstill while Labour were in power – then they can do something to force the issue.

They can start by introducing affirmative action for the legions of talented youngsters who don’t have pushy middle class parents and for those who are from ethnic minorities.

If Nick Clegg is so willing to engineer a real difference he can begin by replacing a third of all senior level public and civil servants with people who truly represent the British population. And that should extend into the cabinet (and shadow cabinet) too.

Once implemented, we can be assured that our teachers will continue producing talented and knowledgeable youngsters for a jobs market that will use their skills and education to the benefit of the country. And we will have talented youngsters who will actually achieve their ambitions.

That doesn’t take a clever teacher Nick; it takes political courage to face facts and accept that perhaps you aren’t doing the best for Britain by ‘closing a schools’ gap’. Because unless the middle class stranglehold is removed all you will have done is to create another blame game for the entire teaching profession for when your planned ‘improvements’ do not work.

Nick Clegg article in The Observer
Gordon Brown interview (in The Economist)
Joseph Rowntree Foundation Social Mobilty report

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