Westminster Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

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

TO BE PUBLISHED December 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will focus 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 agenda includes a ministerial keynote contribution, as well as from the Social Mobility Commission.

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
  • 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
  • Improving social mobility following the pandemic - policy priorities

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:
  • £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
  • Monitoring social mobility 2013 to 2020 - the recent Social Mobility Commission report the evaluating the Government’s response to recommendations put forth by the Commission
  • Education in England: Annual Report 2020 - from the EPI suggesting that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has stopped closing for the first time in a decade
  • Internal migration and social mobility - moving out to move on - the Social Mobility Commission report on the link between internal migration, disadvantage and social mobility, finding that people moving to London and the south-east still have better employment prospects and higher pay
  • 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 - speech 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.
  • GCSE and A level students to receive centre assessment grades - for A and AS Levels, announced by DfE and Ofqual following reports of inconsistency and unfairness in grades received by students

The discussion in detail:

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
  • 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
  • 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

Improving educational attainment following the pandemic

  • taking forward what has been learned - from challenges that the pandemic and lockdown posed 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 - priorities and practical strategies for ensuring aiding disadvantaged groups in developing 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

Implementing 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
  • early signs - looking at 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

There will be a keynote contribution from 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 ensuring particular groups such as people from BAME communities receive effective careers advice during this time
  • 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 - a 36% decline in apprenticeship starts from people from disadvantaged backgrounds following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, compared to a 23% drop for 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

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; HMRC; the Ministry of Justice and the National Audit Office.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from the Bonhill Group.

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

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Education Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates