The Department for Education has said that social mobility remains its top priority under new education secretary Damian Hinds.
The announcement came as his predecessor Justine Greening said that she left government, rather than accepting a job at the Department for Work and Pensions, in order to concentrate on the issue of social mobility from the backbenches.
The DfE today published an updated single departmental plan to reflect the change in the ministerial team following the government reshuffle.
It says: “Our purpose is to help create a country where there is social mobility and equality of opportunity by providing excellent education, training and care, and to help everyone reach their potential, regardless of background.”
It adds that “one overarching ambition will focus on places and communities across the country that feel they have been ‘left behind’, because they have not yet seen the improvement that other parts of the country have already benefited from”.
'I feel passionately about social mobility'
Ms Greening today told the Radio 4 Today programme that she did not resign from the government because of policy differences with Prime Minister Theresa May.
She said: “The conversation was simply around the fact that she wanted me to move into the Department for Work and Pensions. I feel so passionately about social mobility and equality of opportunity – to me that was the overriding thing that I wanted to put my time into.”
As a backbench MP, Mr Hinds was chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Social Mobility. In 2012, the group published a report called Seven Key Truths about Social Mobility.
It argued that the point of greatest leverage for social mobility is what happens between the ages of 0 and 3, mainly at home, but “you can also break the cycle through education”.
It said that the most important controllable factor was the quality of teaching, and described the policy challenge as “focus first on quality of teachers and teaching”.
It also stressed the importance of levelling the playing field for out-of-school opportunities.
The DfE has yet to unveil the portfolio of new education minister Nadhim Zahawi, but today’s plan says he is the lead minister for closing the word gap in the early years.