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Nick Clegg: "We have to shake off the outdated, snobbish attitudes of class that are cramping our society and hobbling our economy"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 308.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    can't seem to find my son or daughter's birth rate. Is it on the birth certificate? lets see.... perhaps I could make one up for them so they can reap the benefits. Suitably low of course (how about 2lb 5 ozs and 2lb that wont do they want it in fluid ounces,,,er no they want it in would that be I wonder??
    What tosh......... Nanny state strikes again

  • Comment number 306.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    @Frank Fisher: couldn't agree more..I was Grammar School educated from a working class family in a mining and agricultural community in Yorkshire.

    My education was all about the possible. I became a company director and my brother started his own business.

    I owe my success to my parents and my teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.


    "14 of the 17 richest states (per capita) in the world have monarchies."

    So having a monarchy makes a country more likely to be rich? I doubt it. In fact, history would suggest that if there's any causal link it's the other way round; prosperous people are more likely to put up with a lack of democracy, and thus less likely to overthrow their king.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Nick Clegg: "We have to shake off the outdated, snobbish attitudes of class that are cramping our society and hobbling our economy"

    The posh boys like Nick Clegg will save us, lol

    The posh boys' solution for sorting out those British working classes who wanted to better themselves and get ahead in the world was to import millions of foreign immigrants as cheap labour

  • rate this

    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 301.

    Grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools. How hard is it?

  • Comment number 300.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Poor Liz, Denmark does pretty well for equality, despite having an almost identical monarchy to ours. Also, you can send your kids to private school and the state will pay 80% of the bill in return for the saving you are giving to the state education. We should learn from that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Why are so many debates focussed on the poor (freeschool meals as a measure).
    A bigger issue is the legions of the coping classes whose kids could actually make it to Oxbridge, Civil Service or BBC etc but just don't try hard enough. Evidence? Compare girl vs boy GCSE results or Chinese and Indian children's results with British. You've got to WANT it as well as be capable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    What's a 'social background?'

    Last week, I was long-term unemployed. This week I'm an IT lecturer at a college. Which 'background' reflects the influence on my daughter, who is in high school?

    More mouthings from someone who lied his way into office, destroyed many poorer folks' chances of an education, and is unfit to have any influence on anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    The problem with the current status quo where we are assigned by birth is that it really is a race to poverty. We will not be able to compete against all those fairer countries, will gradually fall down the league tables of wealth, and will end up as a quiet little backwater where there are a few nobles by birth, peasants to serve them and no industry and no prospect of improvement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    288. Dr_Ads

    That's what's confusing me. I don't know if Giles Jones was trying to blame them for something.

    I quote
    "Having fully elected leaders and heads of state would be a good start. We're one of the few in the EU who have a royal family and it's plain to see the effect it has."

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    University fees only become an issue once you earn a graduate-level job, and still only account for a fraction of the extra earnings you can expect via a degree. Everything in education seems dumbed-down and PC these days, and we're producing too many sociology and media studies graduates, and not enough sciences/languages/maths/computing - the actual wealth-creating areas.

  • Comment number 293.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    @283 So what? Perhaps your parental education (including simple things like showing you work ethic and sacrifice) was good. Only when parental education AND formal schooling is terrible can people boast that they have acheived against huge odds. There are very few people who can say that. If your parental education had been much worse I doubt you would be where you are. Come down from the pedastal

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    I really do not understand the birth weight factor.

    I am a really successful degree educated mum of 3 my husband is a company director. Our middle son weighed less than 6pounds at birth (he was full term). He was 'just a small baby' is he going to be put as disadvantaged?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Of course it's impossible to argue against equality of opportunity, but whenever "social mobility" is mentioned it is always "bottom up", and never "top down". The truth is that we under-value people doing the "dead end jobs", and over-reward those at the "top". A maximum wage of ten times National Minimum Wage would at least address social inequality. We can't all be Deputy Prime Minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.


    There are plenty of people at the top because they went to the right school / uni because "daddy" or "mummy" have lots of money and who are there without the hard work or talent."

    There are plenty of people at the bottom who sit around and whine and moan and complain that everyone else has it better than them. Whether they've got talent or can work hard no-one will ever know.


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