Is Education the Answer to Social Mobility?

10th Jul 2012; 18:30

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The RSA / Teach First Education Matters Debates

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP is now unable to take part in this event. Stephen Twigg MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education will join the panel.

In setting out the latest phase of the government’s social mobility strategy, Nick Clegg placed an emphasis on what he termed the “great rift in our education system” between our best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families rely on. Arguing that this gap in educational opportunity is corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy, Clegg claimed that healing the rift would be essential to ensuring that the school system as a whole promotes fairness and mobility, and that all children are given the chance to get ahead in life.

It has become axiomatic to state that education is the key to future success in life, but many would argue that the dice are irrevocably loaded well before children arrive at the school gates.  Yet more than a decade of government investment in early-years programmes has failed to make significant progress in narrowing the income-determined gap. So what really are the key drivers of social mobility, and in what environment and at what stage of life are interventions best introduced?  If we believe schools have an important role to play in enhancing mobility, how can we be sure investment is channelled most effectively?

And is social mobility really the right goal in any case? The wealthy will always have the financial and social capital to cement their advantage, so should we instead be focusing on social justice, taking steps to tackle inequality in more radical ways, in order to level the playing field and make the race genuinely fair?

As part of its 10th Anniversary year, Teach First has started a national conversation about why education matters. The charity is looking to understand what collective impact is needed to close the gap between children from low-income communities and their wealthier peers. In this second event in a new series of Education Matters Debates, Teach First and the RSA bring together a high-profile panel to ask: what is the answer to social mobility, and is education enough?

Panel to include: Stephen Twigg MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education; Jo Shuter, head teacher, Quintin Kynaston Community Academy and Anna Vignoles, professor of economics of education, Institute of Education.

Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA.

See what people said on Twitter: #EduMatters

Teach First, Credit Suisse, Comino Foundation

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