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'Double our money', says new social mobility chief

Dame Martina Milburn tells MPs that commission budget should increase to £1m

Social mobility chair is questioned by MPs

Dame Martina Milburn tells MPs that commission budget should increase to £1m

The Government’s preferred choice to lead the Social Mobility Commission has asked for its budget to be nearly doubled to £1 million to enable it to make more of a practical difference.

Dame Martina Milburn told MPs that the commission’s budget was £600,000, which meant there was “an awful lot to cover on very small resources.”

She was facing questions from MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee this morning as the government’s preferred candidate to chair the Social Mobility Commission after the entire board quit last year.

In his resignation letter to prime minister Theresa May, Alan Milburn, the former chairman said: “I have little hope of the current government making the progress I believe is necessary to bring about a fairer Britain.”

The commission had previously warned the government that plans to expand the number of grammar schools could make the country’s deep social mobility problem “worse, not better”.

In its annual state of the nation report in November 2016, the commission warned that there was no evidence that the continued rollout of the academies programme or the creation of new grammar schools would tackle the country’s social mobility problem.

And last year, it cautioned that disadvantaged pupils outside London had the “odds stacked against them when it comes to accessing quality teachers and attending vibrant schools”.

Dame Martina revealed her request for more funding when was asked by MPs today what she hoped to achieve in the first year of the job.

She said: “I want to have a real look at vocational education either through research or practical examples where we can make a difference.

“I have asked for the budget to be upped to a £1 million and for some of that additional money to be able to be used to disseminate best practice.

"So you are doing the research but you have also got some practical bits. I think it’s the practical work and the storytelling that will get it known among the general public.”

She was also questioned about how she would make sure her experience was different from that of her predecessor. 

Committee chairman Robert Halfon asked how she would ensure that the commission “had teeth.”

Dame Martina said that she had spoken to Mr Milburn and his advice had been to ensure she had access to 10 Downing Street.

She said she had established contacts at No 10 and would be producing quartlerly reports, which would be sent to the prime minister.

Dame Martina also said that she knew social mobility was critical to the education secretary Damian Hinds but added that he could be moved to another job.

Dame Martina was the chief executive of the Prince’s Trust charity for 14 years.

She is set to be appointed to the commission depending on the Commons Education Select Committee's recommendation to Hinds.

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