The government wants to do more to promote social mobility. It wants more children to enter higher paid employment from home backgrounds that brought them up on benefits or low incomes.
There are many ways for young people to aspire to much higher incomes than their parents. They all entail lots of hard work. Being a star footballer, a leading singer, a great dancer or a well known actor all require plenty of discipline and training. The social reformers have in mind more people from the inner cities becoming High court judges, leading barristers, senior medical consultants, leading accountants and writers. These professions can offer attractive levels of financial reward, but all require substantial academic achievement on the part of their recruits.
The single most important thing the government can do to bring this about is to reform the state schools so that more of them enthuse, encourage and promote academic excellence. A disproportionate number of independent school pupils go to the elite universities, because a disproportionate number of the academically successful emerge from fee paying schools. This is not the fee paying schools fault. It is a problem we need to sort out in the state sector.
The government does not want to create grammar schools in every town in the way John Major once promised. It has bought into the socialist view that elite academic schools should only be available for the children of the rich, and not for the rest. That means finding ways to encourage sets or groups within comprehensives that can pursue academic excellence without interruption and with teacher support within the comprehensive framework. It means stamping out bullying, seeking to contain or rid the school of the idea that reading isn’t cool and swots need to be exposed. It means promoting excellence in academic life as well as in sport,and art and the other items on the curriculum.
At sixth form level it means providing good pupils with access to libraries full of challenging books and computer programmes that can can stretch the student. It means moving away from teaching for the marks in the exam to teaching the subject in the round for part of the time. It probably means taking fewer exams, but taking harder ones.