What Motivates Us

We are driven to remove the influence of background on educational and employment outcomes

No child’s future should be determined by the circumstances into which they are born. At present, this link is stronger in the UK than in other developed countries. It has a divisive and detrimental impact on our society and on our creative and economic productivity.

Urgent and sustained collaborative action is required to achieve social reform. We are weakening the hold of background by working across sectors to achieve reform by:

  • Reducing the gap in GCSE attainment
  • Opening access to higher education 
  • Improving student retention and graduate success
  • Increasing access to top professional employers
  • Monitoring the progress of employees in firms to ensure equal rates of progression
  • Reducing the class pay gap.

The Evidence

  • There is a strong correlation between background and attainment in school. In the last decade, half a million children were not school-ready by age five; they were disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds. Only a third of children eligible for free school meals attain 5 A*–C grades at GCSE, compared with almost two thirds (61.2%) of other children.
  • This vast attainment gap impacts on progression into post-16 education. However, even after controlling for GCSE attainment, pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds are one third more likely to drop out of education at age sixteen and, even if they do progress, they are 30% less likely to choose the A-levels that are needed to study at a top university.
  • Unequal progress to post-16 education impacts on access to university. Pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds who attain the high grades required by the most competitive universities are still seven percentage points less likely to secure a place, compared to their more affluent classmates.
  • University participation does not have the levelling effect that was previously assumed; those for whom the cost of higher education is most acute often benefit the least. Students from more affluent backgrounds benefit from better graduate outcomes compared to their less advantaged peers, even once we control for institution attended and subject.
  • Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to gain employment in the top professions, and earn 10% less on graduation. This is likely a construct of the differential levels of employment capital gained by students whilst at university, and the marketing and selection practices of employers.
  • Unequal entry into the labour market can lead to weaker progression in the workplace. Additionally, even when we control for a range of factors including occupation type, educational qualifications and location, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds experience a perpetual pay gap: this class pay gap, labelled the ‘class ceiling’, is up to £11,200 annually in the finance sector, for example.