‘More than half a century of sweeping educational reforms have done little to improve Britain’s social mobility, according to one of the country’s leading experts on equality.
Instead, young people from less well-off families entering today’s labour market have far less favourable prospects than their parents or even their grandparents, despite having gained much better qualifications.
Giving the British Academy sociology lecture on 15 March, Dr John Goldthorpe, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, whose work on class has proven widely influential, will claim that little has changed in British society since the second world war, largely because more advantaged families are using their economic, cultural and social advantages to ensure that their children remain at the top of the social class ladder.
The new findings offer a sobering corrective to the prevailing view, favoured by successive governments, that improving access to education has been a powerful weapon in promoting social mobility in Britain.
“Successive governments, committed to increasing mobility, have regarded educational policy as the essential means to this end,” Goldthorpe observes. “Yet despite all this expansion and reform, inequalities in relative mobility chances have remained little altered.”’ - Guardian
‘There has been a worrying lack of creativity from successive governments of all political leanings on education-to-work transitions. The current government is relying entirely on the university and apprenticeship system to fully bear the burden of this critical transition.
We now have a university system that offers very expensive degrees across the board regardless of quality, with little price competition and no real option to go for a cheaper degree. This means that some young people end up graduating with tens of thousands of pounds of debt to go into jobs that, 30 years ago, would not have required a degree. A success to be celebrated, or a damaging illusion of mobility?
And apprenticeships have become stretched beyond recognition: at one stage they were a way of honing specific technical and vocational skills to a high level over two-to-three years. Now most last just a year, many are poor quality, and a whole range of skills have been shoehorned into a system not originally designed to develop them.
Rather than expanding apprenticeships at the expense of quality, government should be piloting new ways of supporting young people to develop the transferable skills so important to the British service-sector economy’ – Observer Editorial in Guardian
‘A recent survey found that about 54 per cent of the country believed young people's lives would be worse than their own generation's, the highest proportion ever recorded.’ – Daily Mail