A student pupil premium for disadvantaged 16- to 19-year-olds should be introduced, the Social Mobility Commission said today.
In its State of the Nation 2021 report, the commission says the government, employers and educators have to act now to rescue the next generation from decades of hardship, and they should start by taking action to end child poverty.
It says almost one in three children (4.3 million) are now in child poverty, 700,000 more than 2012, and argues that the poorest families and their children have suffered most during the past 18 months and should be helped first.
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The foreword to the report says: "Money should be targeted where it is needed most. We need to help close attainment gaps with a new student premium for 16- to 19-year-olds that will allow colleges and schools to invest in their students through tutoring, additional teachers or other evidence-backed interventions."
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Sandra Wallace, interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “Now is the time to take action and we must not shy away from difficult decisions. Now is the moment to level up opportunities for children across the country. Ending child poverty and investing significantly in education are two of the most impactful and influential things the UK government can do to improve social mobility.”
Fellow interim co-chair Steven Cooper added: “A recovery programme presents a chance to put social mobility at the top of the agenda, but it will have to be a group effort. It will require commitment from government, employers, educators and local leaders to ensure young people have greater access to opportunities from school to employment.”
The report also calls for employability and life skills teaching to be mandatory at school end-of-year after GSCEs and A levels, and for the apprenticeship levy to be tailored more effectively for disadvantaged trainees.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “The State of the Nation report rightly challenges the government to ensure that a generation of young people are not left behind due to pandemic disruption and widening inequality gaps. The SMC supports our calls for a 16-19 student premium and catch-up support – these students are the group with the least time left in education and have suffered a disrupted year of learning and face a tough labour market afterwards.
"They simply cannot wait for the next spending review – without immediate support, we risk them slipping through the net. The Treasury and the Department for Education should carefully but quickly consider these recommendations because the clock is ticking and young people need support now. The case for more investment in 16 to 19 learning in colleges is very strong and will have the greatest impact on those that need it most.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “We are committed to levelling up opportunities for everyone as we build back better from the pandemic. We welcomed the Commission’s 2020 report on apprenticeships and social mobility which found that disadvantaged apprentices experience greater boosts in earnings when they complete an apprenticeship. To help businesses offer apprenticeships, we have increased our incentive payments to £3,000 for newly recruited apprentices and extended this until the end of September 2021, as part of the Plan for Jobs.
“We are targeting support for 16 to 19-year-olds to those who need the most support through the 16 to 19 tuition fund which will give disadvantaged students access to one-to-one and small group tuition.
“Eligibility for the 16-19 Tuition Fund in 2021-22 academic year is being broadened to include economic disadvantage in addition to low prior attainment. Including these students allows providers to offer tuition to all disadvantaged students who have been impacted by the pandemic, while still maintaining focus on low prior attainment.”