Birth weight among social mobility checks - Nick Clegg


Nick Clegg: "We have to shake off the outdated, snobbish attitudes of class that are cramping our society and hobbling our economy"

The government is to publish an annual "snapshot" of social mobility, by measuring information such as educational achievement, access to professions and birth weights.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said being able to advance at work and in learning was a "vital ingredient" of the UK's economic success.

Wasted talent was a "crime" which hurt society, he added.

But Labour said life chances were going "backwards" under the coalition.

Campaigners claim that social mobility in the UK has reduced since the 1960s. The government has commissioned former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn to investigate the issue.


Foundation years

  • Low birth weight, by social background
  • Early child development, by social background
  • School readiness, by free school meal eligibility
  • School readiness by phonics screening check

School years

  • School attainment at age 11 by free school meal eligibility
  • School attainment at age 16 by free school meal eligibility
  • School attainment at age 16, by school area's level of deprivation

Transition years

  • Attainment by age 19, by free school meal eligibility at age 15
  • High A-level attainment by age 19, by school type
  • Participation in education aged 18 to 24, by social background
  • Participation in employment to 18 to 24, by social background
  • Progression to higher education by age 19, by free school meal eligibility at age 15
  • Progression to higher education in the most selective institutions by age 19, by school type


  • Graduate destinations by social background
  • Access to the professions by social background
  • Progression in the labour market
  • Second chances in the labour market (includes access to adult education)

Source: Cabinet Office

At a conference organised by the Sutton Trust, which promotes educational opportunities for young people from underprivileged backgrounds, Mr Clegg called for "a more dynamic society: one where what matters most is the person you become, not the person you were born".

He dismissed as a "myth" the idea that social mobility can increase only during times of economic prosperity, saying: "I strongly believe that opening up our society is a vital ingredient in our future productivity. Wasted talent is always a moral crime, but it is increasingly an economic crime too.

"The Sutton Trust's own work has suggested that boosting poor educational attainment up to the UK average would increase GDP by £140bn by 2050, and increase long-run trend growth by 0.4 percentage points. Social mobility is a long-term growth strategy."

He announced the annual publication of a set of 17 indicators to monitor "how well the government is doing in making society fairer".

These include the proportion of children under five on free school meals achieving a "good level of development" compared with other children, attainment at age 16 of those eligible for free school meals and higher education enrolment by social background.

Birth weight will also be measured. Babies from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be underweight and this has been associated with "a wide range of poor educational and health outcomes later in life", the government says.

It adds that this will be the first time such information has been published by any government in the world.

Mr Clegg argued that life chances could not be evened out simply by reducing inequality, pointing to Australia and Canada as examples of countries with a similar gap between the rich and the poor as the UK but much better levels of social mobility.


For evidence of successive governments' failure to tackle a lack of social mobility, Nick Clegg recommends watching ITV's 56 Up.

The septennial documentary series is proof of a distinctly British disease, he argues.

His plan to assess the impact of government policy on mobility may not set the world on fire now, but he insists it is for the long term.

Early years support is part of the coalition's plan, but the focus for the Lib Dem leader appears to be universities.

He wants the best to consider taking students from poorer backgrounds who may not achieve grades as high as those of their richer contemporaries.

This was not about "dumbing down", he said, but recruiting on potential, not just attainment.

He described suggestions that the government was trying to "socially engineer" as "nonsense".

Mr Clegg, who attended a top public school, added: "I know some people will say I should keep quiet about social mobility, that my birth, my education, and my opportunities mean I have no right to speak up. I couldn't disagree more.

"If people like me who have benefited from the system don't speak up, we will never get anywhere."

But Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said Mr Clegg would have more credibility on the issue if the government wasn't pursuing policies that damage the prospects of young people and increase inequality.

She said: "He's part of a Tory-led government which is closing children's centres and has scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs Fund, while more than a million young people are out of work.

"Cutting taxes for millionaires while millions pay more makes inequality worse, not better," she added.



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  • Comment number 334.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

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    Comment number 302.

    Its only those that were born with a silver spoon in their mouths that talk in terms of "social mobility", what they are really talking about is the class system that is just as strong today as it was years ago and the only way to beat that is with money, there are very few MP's that were brought up on a council estate and went to work at 15 most come from the public school system and know nowt

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Social mobility is about equality & achievement on merit.

    Financial pressures exclude or hinder many people from it.

    Not having the 'contacts' or 'influence' (from schooling or parents) of some penalises individuals further.

    Eliminating these factors will not only allow proper social mobility, with achievement on merit, but will probably make British industry & management more effective also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Youngest of 4 council estate kids, left school no qualis. 1st job on bacon n cheese counter of local supermarket. Various jobs over 18yrs took myself to uni as a mature student 10yrs ago, now highly qualified & experienced. No one 'helped' me, financially or otherwise.
    If you want it, get of yr back side & make it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Barriers to progress are nearly always self-imposed. The 'old-school tie' culture is increasingly a myth. The majority of successful entrepreneurs on the Sunday Times rich list don't fit the 'elite' stereotype.

    Perhaps it's time people stopped looking for excuses for their lot and just worked harder to improve it.


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