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Social Mobility

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2020

This Government are focused on levelling up. We are transforming our skills system so that everybody has a chance to train and retrain, and we are using important new data analysis from the Equality Hub to ensure that we are addressing where real inequality lies in the UK.

I welcome all the work my right hon. Friend is doing to promote social mobility. However, what assessment has she made of the needs of groups such as white working class children whose challenges have not had enough attention to date?

I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. White British children who receive free school meals perform worse at GCSE than equivalent black and Asian children. We need to ensure that children from all backgrounds are succeeding in modern Britain, and that is going to be a major focus for the Equality Department, working with the Department for Education.

Social mobility should not mean having to leave your community to go in search of opportunity: we need to spread opportunities across our towns and villages, including those in my constituency. The digital revolution should provide an opportunity to make this more achievable, but sadly, many adults, even in my constituency, do not have the digital work skills needed to take advantage of this. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the digital skills boot camps being established across the country, alongside the fantastic work of civil society organisations such as the Good Things Foundation in Sheffield, are vital to opening up the jobs of the future to people in all communities?

We know that digital skills are vital in the modern economy. We also know that this is a huge opportunity for us to level up our country. We know that take-up is particularly low among girls in areas such as computing, and that is why the digital skills boot camps are vital. They are being rolled out across the country in spring 2021 to ensure that everybody has the skills they need to succeed.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the lifetime skills guarantee is a landmark achievement in opening up opportunity for all, especially in left behind communities, such as Radcliffe, in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; too many people have been let down in the past by poor education. We want to make that right, through the lifetime skills guarantee, making sure that there is an entitlement to level 3 qualifications and access to four years of loan funding, for people to use over their life- time, so that everybody, right across the United Kingdom, has the skills they need to succeed.

My right hon. Friend will know that education is incredibly important when it comes to opportunity and social mobility. What steps are the Government taking to make sure that those who learn differently due to dyslexia are able to receive that crucial early diagnosis and support so that they can access those opportunities equally?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point; everybody needs access to a world-class education that sets them up for life. I am pleased to say that in early years 25% of children with special educational needs achieved a good level of development in 2019, which compares with a figure of only 14% in 2013, but we continue to do more to make sure that children with special educational needs have access to a good education, right across the country.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that mothers are supported in the return to work during this recovery?

It is very important that working mothers and working fathers have access to the childcare they need so that they are able to get into work during the coronavirus crisis. That is why it is so important that we keep our schools and nurseries open, and that we continue to give the support of the 30 hours a week of childcare for three and four-year-olds.