Social mobility and DfE funding for schools

Social mobility is high on the government’s agenda and education is crucial to enabling it. Educational consultant Tim McShane considers the path to social mobility, the DfE funding to support it and the wider role of school business managers and leaders in achieving it

What do Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire and Hastings have in common? They bring to 12 the number of  opportunity areas identified as having the least social mobility opportunities according to the government’s social mobility index. They are considered places where there is a culture of apathy in relation to education and where parents, pupils and staff often lack ambition and aspiration.

Building a fairer Britain

Social mobility is this government’s big idea for a fairer Britain, seeking to break down barriers and level up opportunity across every life phase so that everyone can go as far as their talents and drive will take them. The government’s wider social mobility agenda encompasses:

  • affordable housing
  • economic reform for geographical regions
  • career building.

Schools play a vital part in the last two items.

Clearing a path for social mobility

Education secretary Justine Greening has said: “I’ve been really clear that my defining goal as education secretary is improving social mobility across our country, so that it does not matter where you start, or where you grow up; you have the same opportunities to reach your potential.”

This is quite a challenge in the face of successive governments which failed in this endeavour according to the Social Mobility Commission’s report Time for Change, published June 28, 2017.

Like all great ideas it takes money and effort – but the good news is that the DfE has put several pots of money on the table, including £72m for a Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund. This has been allocated to improve teaching and leadership through evidence-based projects, including £10m to incentivise take up of the new National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). The first round has already closed and there are likely to be two more rounds for bids.

This pot is to improve the quality of teachers, leaders and effective teaching in classrooms by improving the career progression of teachers and leaders, improving retention and professional development which meets the needs of school.

In addition, there is the £140m Strategic School Improvement Fund towards schools and leaders that already play a system leadership role such as teaching school, national leader of education (NLE) or national leader of governance (NLG) in and around opportunity areas. These system leadership functions and roles are expected to play a role in supporting schools in opportunity areas to improve.

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A recent report by Teach First revealed that, “…through a mere accident of birth, poorer young people find doors closed and paths to the top blocked again and again and again. At every stage of their lives – from cradle to college to career – new hurdles to social mobility appear that simply don’t exist for those from more advantaged backgrounds, making it virtually impossible for them to break through the so-called ‘class ceiling’ and reach as high as their talents allow.”

A few highlights from their report:

  • By age 11 just 35% of pupils from low-income backgrounds achieve the expected standards in reading, writing and maths, compared to 57% of their better-off peers.
  • Only one in three teenagers from low-income backgrounds achieves five GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths, compared to twice as many teenagers from wealthier backgrounds.
  • By Year 13, almost one in three 17-year-olds who are eligible for free school meals have failed to make it this far, meaning they are no longer participating in education. Only one in seven 17-year-olds who aren’t eligible for this benefit have dropped out.

Time to give students a helping hand

As a school business manager or leader you are able to look above and beyond every day school economics to the wider issues and agendas which drive our nation. Having that big picture can energise you into going for those bids – or seeking to become part of possible bids – that will benefit those in your school, TSA, MAT and beyond to bring about a fairer Britain.

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