The promise of social mobility broken?

Porsha Nunes-Brown, Network & Communications Officer 

Disadvantaged White British students are the least likely to attend university.

Black children are most likely to grow up in poverty.

Ethnic minority women are more likely to be unemployed.

Those were some of the findings of the Social Mobility Commission’s latest report: Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility, revealing the realities faced by certain social groups in the UK.

The underachievement of white British students at primary and secondary school is a major concern, which significantly hampers the likelihood of further education. Currently, disadvantaged young people from white British backgrounds are the least likely to access higher education, with only 1 in 10 of the poorest attending university. The Social Mobility Commission’s report suggest a number of reasons for the lack of educational attainment among disadvantaged white students which includes parental education and engagement, and economic factors.

The Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) works extensively with young people from diverse backgrounds in schools, having published its “Stepping Stones to a More Equal Society” report on ‘how best to support young people, schools and families in marginalised communities’. Also, directly working with young people addressing the social and emotional aspects of learning, with the aim of building self-confidence, self-esteem, high aspiration, teamwork, and skills in speaking and listening.

There has been a significant increase in participation of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) students in higher education, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), BAME students are more likely to attend university than white British children. This increase is due to a range of factors including parental expectations, the Government’s commitment to encourage BAME students to access higher education and post 1992 universities’ commitment to provide opportunities for ethnic minority students. However, the question that remains, has this increase helped to minimise social inequalities in educational attainment and contributed to greater social mobility?

Despite, significant educational gains, the likelihood of under- and unemployment remains high for ethnic minority graduates. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has found that BAME workers with degrees are two and half times more likely to be unemployed than their white peers.

“The harsh reality is that even now black and Asian people, regardless of their qualifications and experience, are far more likely to be unemployed and lower paid than white people,” says TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady.

It can’t be right to proclaim the importance of education and its ability to lead to better job prospects, while the reality is that a higher percentage of BAME graduates aren’t able to translate their academic achievements into success in the labour market.

“Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. Action is needed across the education system and labour market to better understand barriers to success. Renewed action is needed by government, educators and employers to dismantle them”. Those were the sentiment expressed by Alan Milburn, chair of Social Mobility Commission, calling on us to work together to truly make Britain a country where everyone is able to succeed and to fulfil their potential”.

Those were the sentiments expressed by Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, calling on us to work together to truly make Britain a country where everyone is able to succeed and to fulfil their potential.

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The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.