Schools must follow ‘simple rules’ to ‘crack the code’ of social mobility, says tsar

Social mobility should be the ‘holy grail of public policy’, former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn has said

If some schools can crack the code of helping disadvantaged children to excel then it isn’t “unreasonable” to ask others to do the same, the country’s social mobility tsar has said.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, has said there are “simple rules” that schools can emulate to ensure that “deprivation needn’t be destiny”.

Speaking at the Teach First Impact Conference, where TES is an exclusive media partner, Mr Milburn said schools that had “cracked the code” on social mobility use the pupil premium strategically, build a high-expectations culture, focus on the quality of teaching and engage parents effectively.

He added: “Critically, they seek to prepare students for life, not just exams. If some schools can do these things, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask why others cannot do likewise.”

The former Labour cabinet minister said there should be a “zero tolerance approach” to schools whose results remain below floor standards for a five-year period – and he called for “wholesale changes” in leadership of these schools if progress is not made.

During the event, Mr Milburn also called for the end of the “education lottery” – where schools with similar intakes of poorer pupils achieve vastly different outcomes.

Addressing the Teach First participants, Mr Milburn criticised the recruitment system as being “chaotic”, claiming that teachers are drawn to schools where performance is good and student intake is less challenging.

He said: “This system, if it can be graced with that name, is designed to perpetuate rather than address the geographical and social divides affecting our nation.”

Mr Milburn concluded that social mobility should be the “holy grail” of public policy and should be high priority for government.

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