Press release: Personal and social skills crucial to social mobility

Today’s research brief from the Sutton Trust and upReach highlights the disparity in income between independent school graduates and their state school counterparts. The report shows that only half of this difference is explained by prior academic achievement, suggesting that personal and social skills such as communication and assertiveness also play a critical role in determining earnings.

Recent research from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has shown that disadvantaged pupils have fewer opportunities to develop personal and social skills, compared to more advantaged pupils. Research from the Education and Employers Taskforce has demonstrated that disadvantaged pupils also have less access to high-quality work experience than pupils from more advantaged backgrounds, meaning that poorer pupils also miss out on opportunities to develop these skills in a workplace setting.

State education therefore has a significant role to play in ensuring that all pupils get opportunities to understand the world of work, raise their aspirations and develop the skills they need for the workplace. There is good evidence to suggest that, if delivered well, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education can develop key skills and attributes while also raising pupils’ aspirations and understanding of the world of work, but in many schools that potential is not being realised according to Ofsted. 85% of business leaders support compulsory status for the subject to ensure all pupils learn these skills in classes taught by trained teachers, and the research set out above suggests the social mobility case for doing so could not be stronger.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:

“The PSHE Association knows the importance independent schools place in the skills and attributes developed through PSHE education because of the large proportion of independent schools accessing our support and training. These skills make a huge difference to life chances – indeed one study has suggested they have more impact on earnings at age 30 than academic qualifications.

We need to ensure that the state school sector has the same opportunity to put a premium on these skills and attributes. Statutory status for PSHE education would be an important move in the right direction, ensuring that pupils receive these lessons from trained teachers to supplement direct experience of the world of work. The PSHE education expert group called last year for education and business leaders to come together to develop and accredit the PSHE education curriculum; this is a significant opportunity to improve social mobility, one which should not be missed.”


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