Social Mobility and Segregation in Schools

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Social Mobility Diversity Classroom


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Is the Department for Education achieving social mobility?

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) monitors progress towards improving social mobility in the UK, and promotes social mobility in England. I’ve read their latest report and summaried the findings below…

The Monitoring social mobility 2013 to 2020 report highlights the government’s action on the commission’s key social mobility recommendations over the last 7 years.

An evaluation of policies

Monitoring social mobility 2013 to 2020The report covers several policy areas including early years, education, employment, housing, health and transport.

Inside the report, there is a red, amber, green scorecard. Red indicates ‘little or no action’, amber is showing ‘some, but insufficient progress’ and green as ‘strong progress or delivery.’

There are 97 pages and the early years section starts on page 25 and the education section starts on page 35. I have focused solely on the latter.

You can see from the evaluation, we are far off delivering a world-class education, let alone for disadvantaged pupils.

I’ve summarised the conclusions from the colour-coded scorecard and have listed the questions asked in the footer.


The Social Mobility Commission concludes that “despite the government’s ambition, however, the situation on the ground is not getting better.” Fewer than a quarter of disadvantaged pupils achieve good pass grades at GCSE and that deeper curricula and efforts to improve teaching quality have not yet made much difference! The availability of extracurricular opportunities is also a major concern.

The report also references The Sutton Trust: “The literature already makes clear that the current admissions system disadvantages thousands of already disadvantaged children and families.”

The impact of Ofsted inspections on schools facing disadvantage was highlighted once again and that the exemption for outstanding schools did not contribute to a balanced system of accountability.

The pupil premium policy has been transformative, but schools do not yet always know how to use this funding most effectively. Exclusions, behaviour and teacher salaries were also raised as well as an acknowledgement that funding for further education has decimated this sector.

Questions evaluated

The questions asked are the following and, following an evaluation.

  1. To what extent is it a strategic goal of the Department for Education to eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy in primary school-age children, and what progress has been made towards reaching this goal?
  2. To what extent is eliminating the attainment gap at KS4 between poorer children and their peers a strategic objective of the department? How much progress has been made in this regard?
  3. To what extent has the department thought about tackling social segregation in schools by, for example, encouraging high-performing comprehensives, grammar schools and independent schools to increase the numbers of pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds?
  4. What progress has been made on removing the exemption from inspection for schools rated as Outstanding?
  5. How important are destinations data in the government’s schools accountability framework?
  6. To what extent has social and emotional learning and careers advice been explicitly adopted as part of the curriculum in schools?
  7. What progress has been made by the DfE on implementing a national extracurricular bursary scheme?
  8. What progress has the Department for Education made on developing a more sophisticated measure of deprivation than Ever 6 FSM?
  9. What progress has the government made in considering the impact of pupil premium funding and what thought has been given into differential levels of funding for those who face long-term disadvantage?
  10. What progress has the Department for Education made on establishing an ‘avoiding exclusion’ fund for schools with pupils who are at risk of permanent exclusion?
  11. How, and to what extent, has the DfE supported the increase of teachers’ wages in real terms?
  12. To what degree, if at all, has the department committed to increasing per student spending in the 16-19 education budget?
  13. To what extent has the government made any changes to disadvantaged block funding by updating the methodology underpinning the Discretionary Bursary Fund to ensure allocations are based on current data?
  14. Has the department introduced or is it intending to introduce a student premium for disadvantaged students that models the pupil premium in schools?
  15. To what extent has the government reformed data sharing between schools and colleges?
  16. What, if any, commitment has the department made to commit to ‘what works’ style research in technical education to help providers make evidence-based decisions with their funding for disadvantaged students?
  17. To what extent is it a strategic ambition of the department to halve the attainment gap in Level 3 qualifications and what progress has been made in taking steps towards achieving this?
  18. Did the government review the issue of whether prior qualifications were an unnecessary barrier to progression for disadvantaged students in the scope of its post-16 qualifications review? Have clear transitions between technical and academic routes for all students been created as a consequence of this review?

The report concludes, we believe that it is in the interests of social mobility for schools to have a more socio-economically diverse blend of pupils. The government has not committed itself, either in intent or process, to this goal.

Download and read the full report.

3 thoughts on “Social Mobility and Segregation in Schools

  1. Dear Teacher Toolkit,

    Thank you for your article, it makes for an interesting read. I am one who believed for years that education has the power to the power to transform lives and consequently, I have worked as hard as I possibly could to earn a PhD. However, I have come to realise that social mobility true representation and an opportunity. I am careful enough not to ask for too much by saying equal opportunity. I applied recently to serve as HMI Inspector and was told you have the right qualification and experience to make an excellent HMI but…. Too often I have had students question if they will ever get an opportunity to work in the careers and position they aspire to. Social mobility will be a challenge as long as people are denied opportunities.

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