Today, 14 December 2017, I am publishing Unlocking Talent; Fulfilling Potential: A plan for improving social mobility through education.
This is an ambitious plan to put social mobility at the heart of education policy, helping to make Britain fit for the future. It sits alongside the work of other Departments, and brings together a coherent, concerted approach to begin to level up opportunity right across the education system.
Our education reforms are raising standards in schools: compared to 2010 there are now 1.9 million more pupils in good and outstanding schools. Our introduction of a central focus on phonics is transforming literacy rates for young children. There are record numbers of young people in education or training and more disadvantaged young people going to university.
But, in our country today, where you start still all too often determines where you finish. And while talent is spread evenly across the country, opportunity is not. If we are to make this a country which truly works for everyone, there is much more to be done to deliver equality of opportunity for every child, regardless of who they are or where they live.
We are under no illusion that this will be easy. Nor that education can do it alone. But it does play a vital role – equality of opportunity starts with education.
This plan will deliver action targeted towards the people and the places where it is needed most through five key ambitions. Firstly, there is an overarching ambition to provide additional support to parts of the country that need it to ensure no community is “left behind”. Then there are four life stage ambitions:
Ambition 1: Close the word gap in the early years: children with strong foundations start school in a position to progress, but too many children fall behind early. We need to tackle development gaps, especially key early language and literacy skills, including by boosting investment in English hubs and professional development for early years professionals.
Ambition 2: Close the attainment gap in school while continuing to raise standards for all: the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers is closing. But these pupils still remain behind their peers. We will build on recent reforms, and raise standards in the areas that need it most. This will include more support for teachers early in their careers, providing clear pathways to progression, and getting more great teachers in areas where there remain significant challenges.
Ambition 3: High quality post-16 education choices for all young people: we have more people going to university than ever before, including more disadvantaged young people, but we need to expand access further to the best universities. We are delivering a skills revolution including working with business to make technical education world class, backed by an extra £500 million pounds investment at the March 2017 Budget.
Ambition 4: Everyone achieving their full potential in rewarding careers: employment has grown, but we need to improve access for young people from lower income backgrounds to networks of advice, information and experiences of work through a new type of partnership with businesses and employers. We will also support adults to retrain/upskill.
To achieve these ambitions, we are shifting the way we work. We are focusing on what works: putting evidence and the heart of our approach, embedding and extending successful reforms, and spreading best practice.
We are also shifting focus on building lasting success through partnership: asking employers, education professionals, voluntary groups and many others to step up and join a united effort across the country to put social mobility at the heart of their work too.
Improving opportunity for the next generation of young people is one of the great challenges of our time; everyone must play their part. But the prize is huge: a country in which talent and potential are what matters more. A country where everyone can be at their best.
The plan will be published on the Department for Education’s website and copies will also be placed in the House Libraries.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: