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Political engagement shouldn’t be a question of class. A new project is examining the gap and what to do about it

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 June 2020

Jan Germen Janmaat.

Social mobility is a widely shared ideal in practically all western countries: your family background should not matter for your education, your professional career and for where you end up in life. Consequently, social mobility has been a key concern of social scientists for decades – an interest reignited by the way the Covid crisis is fuelling inequalities in health, education, and the labour market.

Far fewer academics have been interested in the influence of family background on political engagement – i.e. interest in politics and the desire to participate in it. This is surprising as a lack of inter-generational ‘political’ mobility is likely to be as detrimental to social cohesion as a rigid class society. Democratically-elected governments are more incentivised to serve the interests of those who vote than those who are politically disengaged.  Since middle class people have higher levels of political engagement, this may contribute to a vicious circle in which people from disadvantaged backgrounds withdraw their support for democracy altogether. In other words, the passing down of disengagement across generatations may lead to a permanent and alienated ‘political’ underclass.

This is why the Nuffield Foundation has funded our project, entitled “Post-16 Educational Trajectories and Social Inequalities in Political Engagement” (April 2020 to September 2021), which aims to investigate: (more…)

When students’ attainment is mismatched with their university course, life chances are affected

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 December 2019

Gill Wyness and Lindsey Macmillan.

Higher education has long been thought of as a tool to equalise opportunities, with governments around the world spending billions per year on encouraging disadvantaged students into university through financial aid and other widening participation strategies.

Indeed, the Office for Students has recently set ambitious new targets to encourage universities to widen access. But is simply getting poor students into university enough? Our research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, suggests that we need to pay much more attention to the types of universities and subjects that disadvantaged students enrol in, if we really want to improve their life chances.

(more…)

How much does private schooling raise your pay, and does it make you give more to the community?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 November 2019

Francis Green

Private schools find themselves in the news lately, more than they usually are. Boris Johnson became the fifth Old Etonian prime minister since the war, and immediately appointed a cabinet in which nearly two-thirds were privately educated, re-affirming once again what the Sutton Trust and the government’s Social Mobility Commission have been revealing about the political influence of the privately educated. At the same time, for the first time in many decades the possibility of radical private school reform has entered the political agenda. 

Formal evidence on what private schools do can help people evaluate views about Britain’s private school system and whether there is a need for reform. There are two important findings from our latest research which looks at a cohort born in 1990 and (more…)

Inequalities in education and society: the home, the school and the power of reading

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 August 2019

This blog is based on Professor Alice Sullivan’s inaugural professorial lecture, presented at the UCL Institute of Education on 18 June 2019

Much of my work concerns the way that advantage and disadvantage are passed down from one generation to the next. So, for example, why do middle class kids do better in education than working class kids? And, why is there a link between social class origins in childhood and socioeconomic destinations in adulthood?

Sociologists sometimes call this relationship the OED triangle, where O stands for socioeconomic origins, E stands for Education and D stands for destinations in adult life. Social reproduction occurs when there is a close relationship between origins and destinations, and social mobility when that relationship is broken by a move up or down the social ladder.

During the course of my career I’ve worked on a set of interrelated questions regarding educational and social inequalities, and these are the questions I will address here:

(more…)

How well-off and healthy were my parents when I was little? Am I a hard-working high flier, or an advantaged one?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 August 2019

Gabriella Melis and Ingrid Schoon.

Our research looked at how inequalities amongst families in the 1970s in England have been passed on onto their offspring when they were adults themselves. We call the parent’s generation G1, and the offspring generation, born in 1970, G2.

Drawing on data from the British Cohort Study 1970 (BCS70), we considered several measures of socio-economic and health-related risk factors for both the parents (G1) and their children (G2) ­at age 42. The data covered around 11,000 individuals and their families over a 42-year timespan, which makes our sample a very robust one for the study of transmission of inequality from one generation to the next.

We found that individuals who grew up in more disadvantaged families are significantly more likely to end up in disadvantaged socio-economic and health conditions by age 42 when compared to those from relatively more privileged families. This is true, in particular, for those from families where the parents were physically ill or depressed. There is however also a considerable degree of social mobility, for some (more…)

Fair access: are comprehensive universities the answer?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital2 May 2019

IOE Events.

For our latest debate we moved further down the education pipeline, to higher education. We wanted to look at why the pace of progress in widening access across our universities has felt so slow.

We were inspired by a pamphlet published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) entitled The Comprehensive University. In place of our current system of selective university admissions, the pamphlet argued for mechanisms that would distribute applicants with different levels of prior attainment more evenly across the higher education system, in the same spirit as comprehensive schooling. To assess the case for such a move we were joined (more…)

Why Britain's private schools are such a social problem

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 February 2019

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Francis Green. 
Private schools tend to be richly resourced and expensive, so those children lucky enough to attend them normally receive a good education, with academic advantages enhanced by a range of extra-curricular activities. But while this might be great for private pupils these schools pose a serious problem for Britain’s education system and society.
Britain’s private schools are very socially exclusive and there is no sign that attempts to mitigate this exclusivity through means-tested bursaries are working. The scale of bursaries is far too small to make a difference – just 1% of children go for free.
The exclusivity stems from the enormous price tag of private schooling. Fees average £17,200 a year per child, and are much higher for boarding schools. Some question (more…)

What kinds of activities will encourage more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to keep studying science?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 March 2018

Tamjid Mujtaba
I have worked on a range of projects as a mixed-methods researcher over the years although none as quite exciting as  Chemistry for All,  a longitudinal project funded in 2014 by the The Royal Society of Chemistry. Why is it exciting? Because I am confident that both the research design along with the sentiment of  The Royal Society of Chemistry to tackle inequality in post-16 Chemistry participation will produce well-grounded evidence based policy recommendations.
The Royal Society of Chemistry have funded a £1 million five-year project with the main purpose of finding ways to widen participation in chemistry. Colleagues at the IOE and I are collaborating with partner universities to determine the effectiveness of a number of long-term innovative activities developed for schools with low (more…)

Education and social mobility – the missing link, or red herring?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 November 2017

This week the IOE held the first in our ‘What if…’ events series, which challenges thought leaders to bring some fresh and radical thinking to key debates in education. We kicked off with education’s role in relation to social mobility, asking the panel ‘What if… we really wanted to further social mobility through education?’
First up was Kate Pickett of Spirit Level fame. She rejected the very premise of the question, highlighting the greater impact of wider, pervasive inequalities. Nevertheless, she saw some scope for education policy to help lessen those inequalities – banning private education, randomising school admissions and ending student fees were a few of her recommendations.
Next was James Croft, chair of the Centre for Education Economics. James was more sanguine about what could be achieved through education and ‘working with the grain’ (more…)

Closing the gap: we need the best teachers in the most deprived schools

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 September 2017

Becky Francis. 
Our society is stuck in a rut on social mobility – or rather, immobility. For decades, governments of every persuasion have sought to improve social mobility, to narrow the gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers. But that gap – in education, income, housing, health – continues to yawn. It is time to think more radically.
Recent months have seen a steady flow of research evidence documenting this problem. Two reports published this summer are good examples. Closing the Gap: Trends in Educational Attainment and from the Education Policy Institute, reveals that the most disadvantaged pupils in England are now on average more than two full years of learning behind non-disadvantaged pupils by the end of secondary school. (more…)