Summary of State of the Nation Report


The Social Mobility Commission has just released their State of the Nation 2021 report which details how social mobility has been impacted by the pandemic. Social mobility is the link between your income and your parents' income. There is a strong relationship between high inequality and low social mobility. If there are high levels of inequality in a society, children of highly paid parents are more likely to be highly paid than children of low-income parents. As of 2020, the UK ranks 21st on the Global Social Mobility Index and 44th on the Education Quality and Equity Index (this is below countries like Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Estonia). Research has also shown that there is a link between societal inequality, the quality of education that children receive and their lifetime earning potential.

Here are the key things you need to know about social mobility and education: 

 Child poverty and the attainment gap

  • Nearly 1/3 (4.3 million) of British children now live in poverty– this is an increase of 700,000 since 2012. In the north-east of England, child poverty has risen from 25% to 37% in the last 5 years.
  • Due to rising housing costs, in the last three years, over half of LA school teachers have worked with children who are homeless or who became homeless.
  • English students from disadvantaged backgrounds are up to 7 months behind more fortunate students.
  • Even before Covid, if a student has spent 80% or more of their education in poverty, on average they will be almost 2 years behind more privileged students.
  • Before Covid, by the age of 5, the attainment gap between richer and poorer students is over 4 months.

 Technology & income

  • During school closures, 20% of pupils did not have consistent access to a device (e.g. laptop or tablet) to complete schoolwork.
  • In March 2020, 99% of households with an income of over £40,000 had home internet, compared to just 51% of households with an income between £6,000 and £10,000.
  • By May 2021, 1.5 million digital devices had been distributed to underprivileged pupils across the UK.

Background & job prospects

  • Young people have been more likely to lose their jobs than other demographics, with working-class men between 16 and 24 experiencing an 8.7% drop in employment.
  • You are 60% more likely to work in a professional career if you are from a middle- or upper-class background than a working-class family.
  • Following on from the government's new 'Levelling Up' policy at the start of the month, there is a 'postcode lottery' which, alongside education, determines your likely outcome. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Bradford earn £9,500 on average with a large gap between middle- and working-class backgrounds. However, 20 miles down the road in Harrogate, young from disadvantaged backgrounds earn £18,000 per year.
  • These disadvantaged 'cold spots' are often in ex-industrial, predominantly white areas. Although there is often a predominant thought that it is children in ethnic minorities who are the most deprived, many poor white children grow up in rural areas which do not have the same educational or professional opportunities as there are in cities. 


The Social Mobility Commission estimates that £15 billion is needed to recover from the learning loss, just in England alone. This is far more than the initial £3.1 billion that the government has announced.

Here are some of their recommendations:

Target funding for disadvantaged students between 16 and 19.

There are already Student Premiums for students aged 5-16. This additional funding will help students and support schools & colleges to close the attainment gap. These resources should be used by schools in the way that best suits their pupils e.g. tutoring, new staff etc.

Factor in persistent disadvantage into funding, especially in early years

By focussing on students who have predominantly been in poverty during their school life, outcomes can be dramatically improved. More research would need to be done into the best way to use the funds, whether there would be barriers to access and what value the payments should be.

Create funding for more TLRs for mid-career teachers

These additions to a baseline salary can encourage experienced teachers to stay in disadvantaged schools, rather than leave to find career advancement elsewhere. Research by the Sutton Trust in 2019 found that 58% of teachers in the country's most disadvantaged schools were not sure that their school would be able to find suitable teachers to fill their vacancies.

In conclusion

There are many schools that go above and beyond to help their disadvantaged pupils and more funding in the education system would certainly make it easier for schools to close the gap between outcomes for disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. Until that change in funding happens, if it does, the main action to take away from this report for school business leaders is the importance of managing your budget to maximise your current funding to the benefit of your disadvantaged pupils, because the number is rising and the gap is widening.

Although the report can be incredibly disheartening in parts, there is still hope. Education can be the step up that many children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, need to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Keystone offers a comprehensive range of services with a friendly, knowledgeable team. We are devoted to helping as many schools as we can reach best practice and use every penny to ensure the best outcomes for their pupils. 

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