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Alan Milburn calls for social mobility for teachers

Chair of Social Mobility Commission calls for scrapping of teacher tuition fees and subsidised housing for toughest schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 31, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Speaking on day two of Teach First’s Impact Conference, Rt Hon Alan Milburn backed Brett Wigdortz’s call for the new government to put education at the heart of their agenda to deliver social justice and the new Prime Minister’s promise to ‘build a better Britain’. Milburn called on government to “no longer tolerate an education system that produces a cohort of youngsters who simply lack the skills to compete in the modern labour market.” 

The Chair of the Social Mobility Commission spoke to some of the teachers, social entrepreneurs, policy makers and business leaders gathered in Leeds for Teach First’s Impact Conference, Europe’s largest conference focused on tackling educational inequality. 

While he highlighted positive aspects of progress, Milburn highlighted that at the current rates of progress it would take at least 30 years for the educational attainment gap in schools between poorer children and their better-off classmates to even halve, and over 50 years before the gap in access to university is closed between the areas with the lowest and highest participation rates. 

His speech called for four new tests and areas of focus in education for the government to deliver on their promise of social mobility:             

  • Set a new target that by 2020 at least half of children from the poorest background would achieve five good GCSEs. This would be prioritised by the government giving equal importance to closing the gap between pupils from poorer backgrounds and their wealthier peers as increasing overall results and should be implemented through Ofsted inspection framework and school league table measures.
  • Scrap tuition fees for teacher training and housing support for existing teachers who work in the worst schools in disadvantaged areas.
  • The lowest performing 20% of schools to be given intensive support or have wholesale change in leadership if they continue to fail
  • Introduce a new school performance measure in 2018 to track pupil’s destinations into work or continued education.

Milburn says: “The truth about our country is that over decades Britain has become wealthier but we have struggled to become fairer. 

“Children eligible for free school meals suffer a triple whammy of educational disadvantage. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their peers, fewer than 2 in 3 of them then leave primary school at the expected level and they leave secondary with two thirds of them not achieving 5 GCSEs including English and maths. Their risk of ending up in poverty as adults is much greater as a result. In my view it is not just a social injustice that poor children do less well at school than others. It is a moral outrage and it has to change. 

“The introduction of the Pupil Premium and other reforms are positive steps in the right direction. However, efforts to narrow the attainment gap within schools are not been given equal priority to the focus there has been in recent decades on raising the bar of improving all schools. They have to be doing both.”

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