Sunday, 24 June 2012

How to improve social mobility

Social mobility across Britain is in a rapid decline, with children from poor backgrounds now having less chance of improving their prospects then they would have done in the 1950s. Top jobs in journalism, media, medicine and law are dominated by workers who have enjoyed the benefits of a private education. Internationally, Britain has one of worst records for social mobility in the Western world, and this has to change.

There are many causes for these problems, but a theme which underpins them all is education, the engine of social mobility. Since the abolition of grammar schools in 1976, social mobility has effectively ground to a halt. Our once competitive education system, offering a route out of poverty for millions of poor children, now does not. Michael Gove has described this as a “deep rooted problem in our country” and he’s right.

In Croydon when grammar schools converted to comprehensives they effectively became abolished.  This resulted in us losing our brightest pupils to grammar schools to Sutton, Bromley and Kent, a problem that still occurs today.

I have personal experience of this, having grown up in Croydon and going to school at Regina Coeli in Waddon before finishing my studies at Wallington High School for Girls in Sutton. Getting into grammar school transformed the prospects of my family, allowing me to be the first person in my family to go to university, enabling me to achieve.

I believe that education is the engine of social mobility, a privilege that transforms the lives of children financially and culturally. We have a duty in Croydon to help the brightest children from disadvantaged families reach their full potential. Grammar schools provide their students with aspirations and fill them with the self-confidence to fulfill them.

Grammar schools offer hope and excellence to those who need it most and will provide life changing educational opportunities to some of the most disadvantaged families.

Like the boroughs that surround us, Croydon should be a place famous for its quality grammer school education. Offering disadvantaged kids an opportunity to benefit from teaching excellence will encourage social mobility and improve lives for many children and their families.

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