The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has just released their State of the Nation 2021 report which details how social mobility has been impacted by the pandemic. Here are the key points.

Child poverty and the attainment gap

  • Since 2012, the number of British children living in poverty has risen by 700,000.
  • There are now 4.3 million children living below the breadline – that equates to one third.
  • By the beginning of autumn term in 2020, just a few months into remote learning, students from disadvantaged backgrounds were already 7 months behind their more privileged peers.
  • Even before Covid, if a student has spent 80% or more for their education in poverty, on average they will be almost 2 years behind more privileged students.
  • Before Covid, by the age of 5, the attainment gap between richer and poorer students is over 4 months.

Technology & income  

  • During school closures, 20% of pupils did not have consistent access to a device (e.g. laptop or tablet) to complete schoolwork.
  • In March 2020, 99% of households with an income of over £40,000 had home internet, compared to just 51% of households with an income between £6,000 and £10,000.
  • By May 2021, 1.5 million digital devices had been distributed to underprivileged pupils across the UK.

Background & job prospects

  • During the pandemic, working-class men between 16 and 24 experienced an 8.7% drop in employment - the highest of any demographic.
  • If you are from an upper- or middle-class family, you are 60% more likely than someone from a lower-class family to have a 'professional career'.
  • Following on from the government's new 'Levelling Up' policy at the start of the month, there is a 'postcode lottery' which, alongside education, determines your likely outcome.
  • These disadvantaged 'cold spots' are often in ex-industrial, predominantly white areas. Although there is often a predominant thought that it is children in ethnic minorities who are the most deprived, many poor white children grow up in rural areas which do not have the same educational or professional opportunities as there are in cities.
  • Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Bradford earn £9,500 on average with a large gap between middle- and working-class backgrounds. However, 20 miles down the road in Harrogate, young from disadvantaged backgrounds earn £18,000 per year.


The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) estimates that £15 billion is needed to recover from the learning loss, in England alone. This is far more than the initial £3.1 billion that the government set aside to combat learning loss.

Here are some of their recommendations:

Target funding for disadvantaged students between 16 and 19.

In addition to the existing Student Premium, the SMC has recommended that a new student premium for those aged between 16 and 19 be introduced. This additional funding can be used by schools to best support their students in closing the attainment gap e.g. increasing staffing, more tutoring etc.

Factor in persistent disadvantage into funding, especially in early years

By diverting funds to areas which have high levels of poverty, the SMC hopes that out this will improve the outcomes in those areas. More research would need to be done to find the best way to use these funds effectively.

Create TLRs for mid-career teachers

By creating TLRs for mid-career teachers, the SMC hopes that experienced teachers can be encouraged to stay in disadvantaged schools. Worryingly, 58% of teachers in the most disadvantaged schools were not sure that their school would be able to find suitable teachers to fill their vacancies, according to the Sutton Trust.

Although the report can be incredibly disheartening in parts, there is still hope. Education can be the step up that many children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, need to make a better life for themselves and their families.

For many children, education provides a step up to make a better life for themselves and their families. SchoolMark aims to help schools in providing the very best education for their pupils by reaching best practice in their resource management.