Labour to swap 'social mobility' for 'social justice'

But Damian Hinds says downgrading importance of social mobility is ‘effectively to say to people that they should have no ambition’

Martin George

Coronavirus: The crisis has highlighted the plight of the disadvantaged, writes Jarlath O'Brien

Labour will replace the government’s commitment to "social mobility" with a pledge to pursue "social justice" if it comes to power.

The party announced a series of pledges it said would build a country with “opportunities for everyone to develop their talents and progress, not just a lucky few”.

Social mobility has been a key government priority, with the Department for Education committing £72 million to 12 opportunity areas in social mobility cold spots. Education secretary Damian Hinds also once chaired the Social Mobility All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Quick read: Opportunity areas too led by DfE

Background: The 12 areas chosen for funding

Warning: Programme could overload schools

However, Labour today declared social mobility a failure, which has given credibility to the idea that “only a few talented or lucky people deserve to escape the disadvantage they were born into”.

The policy will be unveiled at an event for Labour Party members tomorrow on tackling disadvantage in education.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner is expected to say: “We won’t stand for a society in which only a lucky few succeed while inequality and poverty hold back millions.

“We will focus on social justice, not just social mobility, to build a society in which everyone can develop their talents and succeed regardless of their background. That is the radical transformation of society only Labour will deliver.”

The party plans to replace the Social Mobility Commission with a Social Justice Commission, and pledged to:

  • Replace social mobility with social justice as a measure of government policy and a stated aim of government policies.
  • Grant the new Social Justice Commission wide-ranging statutory powers and genuine independence to hold government to account for improving social justice.
  • Empower the commission to give advice to ministers on policies that could improve social justice, with such advice to be made public.
  • Enable the new commission to carry out social justice impact assessment on government policy.
  • Create a new minister for social justice.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “Social mobility is ultimately why I am in politics and at the heart of social mobility is social justice. There is not a conflict between fairness and social mobility – one requires the other.

“Social mobility is not about the lucky few, it is about breaking the cycle of disadvantage and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Our education system is doing exactly that with the gap between disadvantaged children and those from a privileged background having narrowed at every stage: pre-school, primary, at GCSE and with more disadvantaged young people going to university than ever before.  

“Labour’s attempt to play politics here is mistaken. To downgrade the importance of social mobility is effectively to say to people that they should have no ambition.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

Latest stories