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BBC Education social mobility update: from primary school to preparing for work

Sinead Rocks

Director of Education, BBC

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As summer kicks in, teachers and their pupils will be getting a well-earned break. Things aren’t quite so quiet for the BBC’s education team, though.

We’re preparing to support students when they get their exam results in August, finalising some improvements to Bitesize in time for the new academic year, and stocking up on new curriculum-linked programming for use in the classroom on BBC Teach.

We’re also making progress on the development work we announced a few months ago when we set out our new vision for education at the BBC. It’s all about increasing the impact of our educational content by exploring, in partnership with others, what more we could do to encourage social mobility across the UK.

We’re particularly focused on two key areas:

• improving literacy rates by reducing the language gap that kicks in before children even start school. According to the Sutton Trust, by the age of five the UK's most disadvantaged children can be 19 months behind their more affluent peers in vocabulary development and this deficit can have life-long consequences
• championing the wider needs of children and young people by expanding Bitesize beyond just curriculum support so that it includes career inspiration and discovery, content that builds resilience and self-esteem, encourages critical thinking and provides opportunities for personal development

We’ve been delighted by the support we have received from other organisations who want to work collaboratively with us as we develop our thinking and our plans. From the off, we’ve known that partnerships will be key to making a lasting difference.

With the help of the National Literacy Trust, we've set up a Language Advisory Group, made up of a range of early years language and communication experts including Lucid, Ican, The Communication Trust and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Together, we’re exploring the messages, material and action most likely to give every child the language and communications skills to start school on the same page.

With Bitesize, we’re adopting a twin track approach to its transformation. It’s already a much loved service for five-16 year olds seeking out support for their study, revision and homework. But some of its technology is outdated and it can be a frustrating experience at times and so our first task is to change that. Our audience can expect to see the first fruits of that labour when the new academic year kicks in.

Alongside that, we’ve begun to commission and produce material that goes beyond the curriculum. Our partnership with the CBI has been crucial in this area, and we’re working alongside the likes of The Careers & Enterprise Company, the Gatsby Foundation and others to develop content that will bridge the gap between education and employment. We want to inspire young people, to help them make informed choices about potential careers, and then support them as they strive to reach their potential.

Our overall goal is to make Bitesize work harder for our audience. It has supported the curriculum needs of students for close to 20 years, but we want it to also be there for other key life moments – preparing for your first day at primary school, making the move up to secondary, dealing with exam stress and the more general pressures that come with growing up – all the way through to preparing for the world of work and figuring out what to do if you don’t get the results you need.

Education is a core part of the BBC’s overall mission and we believe that these new initiatives have the potential to make a significant impact, at a time when it has arguably never been more important.

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