Prioritise education to tackle pandemic-fuelled inequality, say public

Fiona Simpson
Thursday, March 11, 2021

More than a third of UK adults believe access to education is vital to improving social mobility for younger generations following the Covid-19 pandemic, new research reveals.

Access to education is vital to improving life chances, the research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock
Access to education is vital to improving life chances, the research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock

The Social Mobility Commission’s Social Mobility Barometer 2021 finds that 33 per cent of adults think access to education should be the government’s key priority in any pandemic recovery plan.

The largest number of respondents said employment opportunities should be the key focus (47 per cent) followed by addressing mental health issues (46 per cent).

The research found that despite access to education and employment opportunities being key areas in which the public believe social mobility can be improved, “young people from the poorest backgrounds are losing their jobs, while families are trapped in cramped housing, sometimes unable to afford basic necessities”, the report states.

Meanwhile, “children from disadvantaged families, often without digital access, are falling behind at school”, it says.

More than half of people asked (56 per cent) say the pandemic has increased inequality, the research shows.

Some 39 per cent of the public think it is getting harder for people from less advantaged families to move up in British society.

Younger people appear to be most affected by the perceived increase in the social mobility gap with those from Generation Z (born since 2000) thought to have the least job security.

Less that half (48 per cent) of 18- to 24-year-olds said they had received better education than their parents compared with 72 per cent of people over 65.

The report also highlights regional disparities with just 31 per cent of people in the north-east believing opportunities to progress in their area are ‘good’, compared with 74 per cent in London.

Steven Cooper, interim co-chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on jobs, training and mental health, particularly among the most disadvantaged groups. This poll dramatically underlines public concern about growing social inequality. 

“Government, employers and educators should listen and act. The most disadvantaged – at home, school or work – should now be put centre stage in any recovery plan.”

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