Professions ‘closed off’ as social mobility plummets

By staff

Top professions such as law have been closed off to children from working and middle class families as social mobility in the UK plummets, a new report has found.

The report, led by former Blairite minister Alan Milburn, found that professions such as law, medicine and journalism were becoming increasingly closed off.

The study, Fair Access to the Professions, which was conducted by a panel of experts called for active government projects to increase employment opportunities.

It also suggested the government’s academy programme for schools, which introduces the private sector to education provision, be expanded – a proposal backed by the Conservatives.

“The Conservatives say that city academies should be extended in both primary and secondary schools,” Mr Milburn wrote in the Times.

“They also say, rightly, that the supply of education places could be opened up to greater competition, particularly in areas of underperformance.”

The panel also suggested forcing universities to publish the social background of those they take on.

“We have raised the glass ceiling but I don’t think we have broken through it yet,” Mr Milburn told the Today programme.

“It’s not that Britain doesn’t have talent, to coin a phrase – Britain has lots of talent.

“What we have got to do is open up these opportunities so they are available for everybody.”

At the moment, 75 per cent of judges and 45 per cent of senior civil servants are educated in the independent sector.

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: “Labour’s tragedy is that on many measures Britain is less equal today than it was when Tony Blair was elected in 1997.

“Alan Milburn’s report includes some useful proposals to improve social mobility – but the most important measures must involve early intervention and improved educational opportunities.

“Trying to improve life chances at age 18 or 20 is just too late, and could prompt a backlash from those who feel they would lose out from ‘positive discrimination’.”

There is substantial criticism in the report of the informal culture of recruitment operating in many of the professions, such as journalism.

The panel found the internship system contributed to the creation of a jobs market that favours connections rather than talent.

But the majority of the proposals centre on universities, who are encouraged to take a greater role in schools.

Pupils from the worst performing schools should also be given vouchers for further education, the report concludes.