Westminster Education Forum

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The next steps for improving social mobility and raising educational attainment in England in the wake of COVID-19

December 2020

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on the next steps for improving social mobility and raising educational attainment in England.

With COVID-19 posing significant challenges for the UK economy - including the impact of school closures during lockdown - it will be a timely opportunity to explore approaches to improving social mobility in the wake of the pandemic, and wider priorities going forward.

The discussion is bringing stakeholders together with key policy officials who are due to attend from the Cabinet Office; the DfE; HM Treasury; BEIS; the NAO; HMRC and the MoJ.

Areas for discussion:

  • where we are now - the current state of social mobility in England and key reports:
    • the pandemic - approaches to improving social mobility in the context of the impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy and on educational attainment with schools being closed
    • the Opportunity Areas programme
      • progress - in fulfilling its aims of developing the knowledge and skills of young people in the 12 identified areas of greatest need
      • value for money - whether the programme offers value for money and how its effectiveness can be measured
    • Monitoring social mobility 2013 to 2020 - progress and next steps on the Social Mobility Commission’s recommendations in, including:
      • a dedicated Social Mobility Unit - to be set up in central government to consider the socio-economic impact of policy being formed in Whitehall
      • strategy - a call for a clear, co-ordinated plan for supporting the early years sector that ensures early years staff receive appropriate pay 
  • COVID-19 - improving educational attainment following the pandemic:
    • what has been learned - from challenges that the pandemic and lockdown to educational attainment of students across England, including those who are disadvantaged
    • what has been done - assessing measures that the Government has put in place to support children in catching up following the pandemic, including:
      • funding for state schools - with headteachers deciding how the money each school is allocated is spent
      • a tutoring scheme - aimed at the most disadvantaged children
    • early years:
      • targeted support - addressing concerns voiced by some in the early years sector that the Government’s package does not include specific measures for early years
      • helping children catch up - how early years settings can work with children to ensure that their long term learning and development is not affected
    • further education - how Sixth Forms and colleges can ensure that the 16-19 attainment gap does not widen, with FE also not included in the Government’s initial announcement
  • tackling the digital divide
    • digital exclusion:
      • impact - how it affects social mobility and educational attainment
      • the way forward - practical strategies for supporting disadvantaged groups to develop digital skills needed for them to succeed in today’s economy, and into the future
      • assessing Government initiatives - such the EdTech Strategy
    • the pandemic - measures put in place by Government to support students with learning through lockdown for any ongoing need for blended learning, including:
      • free laptops - the DfE’s scheme to help improve the access by disadvantaged students to remote learning during the lockdown
      • the Oak National Academy - established to provide learning material for remote learning across all year groups
      • The Skills Toolkit - launched by DfE to help young people develop the skills that will aid them in entering the labour market as well as improve social mobility
  • The National Tutoring Programme
    • assessing effectiveness - the extent to which the Programme, with schools funded to hire private tutors, is helping disadvantaged students get up to speed when returning to school
    • implementation - priorities for the 32 commercial and NFP providers selected to deliver the £76m NTP Tuition Partners scheme in its first year
    • early signs - progress in mitigating the widening of the attainment gap as a result of the pandemic, and the effectiveness of remote learning in helping prevent the widening of the gap
    • next steps:
      • how to make the tutoring programme work effectively - including best practice for good tutoring, how classroom teachers can support the process, the relationship between the class teacher and the tutor, and how tutoring can be implemented to target students’ specific needs
      • DfE signalling its intention to extend the tutoring programme beyond Autumn 2021, issuing a pre-procurement notice seeking advice on delivery options for the next phase
    • keynote contribution - Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive Officer, Education Endowment Foundation - which has partnered with the Government in designing the Programme.
  • post-COVID-19 - supporting young people into the labour market
    • priorities - supporting young people into a challenging labour market, including groups such as people from ethnic minority communities, with relevant and effective careers advice
    • apprenticeships - their future role of in improving social mobility, with recent research indicating on:
      • sustainability - fewer than 40% of apprenticeships have continued as normal during the COVID-19 lockdown
      • issues for key apprenticeship sectors - such as hospitality and retail that have been hit hard by economic decline resulting from the pandemic
      • inequalities - with a greater decline in apprenticeship starts from people from disadvantaged backgrounds following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, compared to others
    • the Plan for Jobs - looking at its impact and implementation, and next steps for supporting more young people into employment
    • universities - their future role in moving forward social mobility in light of the rethink signalled by the Universities Minister

A scan of relevant developments:

  • a National Tutoring Programme - announced by DfE to help primary and secondary students get up to speed with their studies after losing out on study time during the lockdown, as well as:
  • free school meals - successful calls from the Social Mobility Commission, alongside campaigners such as Marcus Rashford, for Government to extend free school meals provision
  • Generation COVID and social mobility: evidence and policy - a new report published by LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, which finds that:
    • during lockdown, 74% of private school pupils were benefitting from full school days, compared to 38% of state school pupils
    • by early October 2020, six in ten pupils overall were benefitting from full schooling
    • young people have been disproportionately affected by unemployment during the pandemic, with one in ten people aged 16 to 25 losing their jobs
  • Educational outcomes for white working-class pupils - Education Committee opening its inquiry into educational underachievement, and recently held its first evidence session
  • £18m extension to Opportunity Area programme - funding to improve educational outcomes, careers advice and teacher recruitment will now run to August 2021 in Blackpool, Bradford, Derby, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Oldham, Stoke-on-Trent, and West Somerset
  • the Plan for Jobs - with measures to support young people into the labour market in the wake of the pandemic, including:
    • a Job Retention Bonus - whereby UK employers are to receive a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each furloughed employee still employed at the end of January 2021
    • the Kickstart Scheme - £2bn to help create jobs for 16-24 year olds with funding covering the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week and with employers being able to top the wage up
    • employment support schemes, traineeships and apprenticeships - with £1.6bn to go towards their scaling up to help support the labour market
  • Universities Minister calls for true social mobility - Michelle Donelan MP recently questioning the use of higher education in promoting social mobility and calling for a new approach that puts the needs of students first, irrespective of whether they embark on a further education course, higher education or start an apprenticeship
  • Changing gears: understanding downward social mobility - a new report published by the Social Mobility Commission and carried out by Ipsos Mori, which shows that 1 in 5 people experience downward mobility in their lives, with groups such as women, children of front-line workers and people from ethnic minority backgrounds being disproportionately affected

The agenda:

  • Social mobility in England - the current state of play and future priorities
  • The impact of COVID-19 on educational attainment, and priorities for recovery - tackling disadvantage in early years, student engagement in lockdown, regional inequalities, and support for teachers
  • The National Tutoring Programme - progress so far and the next stage
  • Education policies, student achievement, and social mobility: an international perspective
  • Raising social mobility in the wake of COVID-19 - post-16 case-studies in routes to employment:
    • The COVID-19 generation - the outlook for young people in the post-pandemic economy
    • Supporting disadvantaged graduates into the labour market
    • Making social mobility work for BAME communities
    • Closing the digital divide - providing disadvantaged groups with the digital skills needed for the workplace
    • Delivering effective and relevant careers advice
  • How has COVID impacted on future ambition?

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Cabinet Office; the Department for Education; HM Treasury; HM Revenue & Customs; BEIS; the Ministry of Justice; the National Audit Office; and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials from DfE, Ofsted, Ofqual and EFSA, together with representatives from schools and colleges, local authorities, private tutoring organisations, careers advisors, universities, extra-curricular activity providers, consultancies and charities, publishers, awarding bodies, EdTech providers and other suppliers, law firms, research institutes and think-tanks as well as academics together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles