SOCIAL MOBILITY

Barnaby Lenon

Abstract


The article places the issue of Social Mobility at the heart of the debate about education. The suggestion is made that most people want is a decent income and good health and that people do not  necessarily aspire to be better than their parents.

There is the declaration that half the population will always have below-average academic ability and school exam results. In order to overcome the divisions in society revealed by recent political events, all need to feel valued. The argument is advanced that there is need to  get back to a more balanced appreciation of those who perform essential jobs, albeit jobs of the hand or heart rather than academic intellect. There is a need, so Lenon suggests,  to stop talking about social mobility as simply a way of ‘rescuing’ people from working-class backgrounds and place more emphasis on valuing the full range of worthwhile occupations. Arguments about social mobility are too often based on exam results or incomes, not the value to society of different occupations.

It is argued that there is a distortion in the way that social mobility is presented and that by many measures social mobility in the UK is better than most commentators have suggested. The upward mobility of women and almost all ethnic groups since 1970 has been remarkable. Improving education is not enough rather  education helps individuals become socially mobile but does not overall create more mobility. The latter is dependent upon a creation of more middle-class jobs.

The issues around social mobility are presented as being less about education and as being more related to the expansion of the economy.  Increasing infrastructure projects and financial incentives to spread growth outside the south-east of England, allied to a massive expansion of high-quality technical and vocational training for the 50% who do not go to university should be seen as the drivers of social mobility.


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