Better-off children protected by ‘Glass floor’

Written by Tom Freeman on 27 July 2015 in News

Best opportunities 'hoarded' by socially advantaged parents, according to report for Social Mobility Commission

Children from well-off British families who are less able at school are protected from falling down the social ladder in adulthood, new research has revealed.

Middle to upper class parents are able to secure educational opportunities and advantages in the labour market for their children, including private tuition and unpaid internships, the research conducted by the London School of Economics for the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission concluded.

The report’s author Dr Abigail McKnight said the best opportunities were being ‘hoarded’, creating a barrier for less advantaged children.


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“Children from less advantaged families who show high potential at age five are struggling to convert this potential into later labour market success.”

“Schools could do much more to help children from less advantaged families build on high early potential,” she said.

The report recommends governments should tackle ‘institutional barriers to aspiration’ including targeting resources at schools in deprived areas and improving admissions procedures.

Parental education has a big impact on children’s earnings, the report found, and schools could counteract this with better careers advice and guidance.

Social mobility commissioner Alan Milburn said the fact children’s destinations were still dictated by demography was a “social scandal” which government should address.

“No one should criticise parents for doing their best for their children. That’s what we all want. But Britain is a long way from being a meritocratic society when the less able can do better in life than the more able.

“It has long been recognised that there is a glass ceiling in British society that prevents children with potential progressing to the top. This research reveals there is a glass floor that inhibits social mobility as much as the glass ceiling,” he said.

The report also calls for employers to do their part.

“Employers also need to step up to the plate by ensuring that internships aren’t simply reserved for those with the right social contacts and that recruitment processes aren’t skewed to favour polish over potential,” said Milburn.

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