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Government promises reform of schools, colleges and professions to encourage social mobility

David Woods , 18 Jan 2010

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The Business Minister, Pat McFadden (pictured), has vowed to put social mobility at the heart of the Government's plans for growth and success in the global economy.

The Government's response to Unleashing Aspiration, the final report from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, agrees to implement the vast majority of the panel's 88 recommendations. 

The Panel, led by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP, challenged Government to do more to ensure that people with ability, creativity and talent can succeed in the professions, regardless of their social or economic background.

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Achieving this aspiration calls for reform in schools, in colleges, in universities and in the professions themselves.

The measures announced today look to harness activity across Government and the professional associations. They include the creation of an online National Internship Service, building on success of the Graduate Talent Pool. This free, nationwide service will help undergraduates and graduates access opportunities and information to develop their employability skills and establish quality standards to benefit both interns and employers. Bursary funding will also be available for students from low-income backgrounds lacking the means to support themselves. This follows the commitment in the Pre-Budget Report to deliver £8 million funding for up to 10,000 new undergraduate internships.

The measures include guarantees, building on the New Opportunities White Paper published last year, for around 130,000 of the brightest young people from low-income backgrounds to benefit from structured assistance at secondary school. Beginning in 2012, this package should include experience of higher education, mentoring and access to high quality information, advice and guidance.

McFadden promised a new Social Mobility Commission to provide expert evidence on trends and policy on social mobility and produce an annual report on progress made towards a fairer, more socially mobile society.

And he has pledged the launch of an expanded Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum with an increased remit covering a wider range of professions. Chaired by David Lammy, the minister for higher education, and involving senior representatives from 60 key professions, the forum will advise on and implement many of the panel's recommendations and will ask professional organisations to report on and share work done to improve access in each of their fields.

The prime minister said: "My mission is to ensure all of Britain's people, from every background, are given the opportunity to develop their talents and learn the skills thatwill transform their lives. And this social mobility must be rooted in our core value of fairness.

"But we can't be a truly aspirational society if some people are still denied the chance to get on, and although we have raised the glass ceiling we have yet to break it. That is why our priority will be to remove all the barriers that are holding people back."

McFadden added: "There are still great causes in politics and ensuring that people can achieve their potential based on their talent, hard work and character, regardless of their background, race or gender, is one such great cause.  We have made progress in raising - but must now break through - the glass ceiling of social mobility in this country

"This isn't about class war - the real class war would be to tell people they should know their place and to continue restricting opportunity to a narrow group. This is about opening up opportunity to the broad majority in Britain, to ensure that those who have the ability also get the chance to do the kinds of professional jobs that are going to grow in number in future years. The measures we have announced in recent months, and the further steps we announce today, will help raise the aspirations of young people and they demonstrate our long-term commitment to a more socially mobile society."

 

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