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Less social mobility for poorer students

The Sutton Trust report states that young people from less advantaged backgrounds are missing out on opportunities to develop key life skills

Posted by Julian Owen | October 25, 2017 | People, policy, politics

A report from the Sutton Trust asserts that access to extra-curricular activities, such as debating, improves social mobility, educational achievement and employability. 68% of employers surveyed by YouGov said that young people who leave school after A Levels/Further Education do not have the required skills for the workplace.

In line with the report’s findings, the English-Speaking Union is working with schools to broaden access to opportunities previously only found in the private school sector. It is offering its Discover Debating programme to more than 100 schools – and thousands of primary school children – across the country, free of charge. Discover Debating is a two- or three-term programme which uses debate to improve primary school students’ literacy and oracy skills.

“Focusing on the North-East, Wales, London and Birmingham, we have been able to select schools which have a have a high proportion of pupils on free school meals, and/or for whom English is an additional language, where we feel our work will have the greatest value,” said Duncan Partridge, Director of Education.

“Involvement in activities such as debating at school can have a huge impact on young people’s life skills.'

The Discover Debating programme also speaks to the report’s call for robust evaluation, so that schools have better guidance on the most effective approaches. While schools receive the programme for free, they are expected to maintain records on student achievement and development across a number of skill sets, which will build a rigorous database on attainment and our impact. 

Duncan Partridge, Director of Education at the English-Speaking Union, said: “Involvement in activities such as debating at school can have a huge impact on young people’s life skills. However, as this report highlights, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have traditionally had fewer opportunities to experience such activities than their more advantaged peers. We are committed to playing a big role in changing this situation through our work. For example, our Discover Debating programme is currently being made freely available to over a hundred primary schools with higher than average number of free school meals students on roll. Similarly, more than half of the places on our summer residential programme, Debate Academy, are provided through bursaries awarded to economically disadvantaged students.”

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