Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Improving social mobility

Like David Aaronovitch, I have always been a bit puzzled by the way the social mobility debate has been conducted in recent years, largely reliant on data about a generation educated under the Conservatives. I have seen the impact of the extra investment in nursery education and schools, and the effect on outcomes, including national test results and GCSEs, particularly through the Youth Cohort Study. So, yesterday's characteristically comprehensive report from the Downing Street Strategy Unit, pointing to signs that social mobility has been improving since 2000, was no great surprise.

But it is vital that the government understands that these improvements are about more than mere investment, important though that is. Nursery education spending has been accompanied by controversial but vital (if excessive) outcome measures. GCSE improvement has been greatest in academies and in schools where accountability has led to individual goals and higher expectations. In other words, this is the product of investment, accountability and reform. If social mobility is to continue to improve, it is crucial that ministers recognise the importance of continuing with this approach without needless distraction.

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