Social Mobility Conference: Unlocking the UK’s potential: making social mobility work for all

On the 14th December 2017, Reform held its inaugural social mobility conference, setting the agenda over the rest of this parliament for this cross-cutting issue. The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP delivered the keynote speech, announcing the new Department for Education social mobility strategy. There was also three panels looking at each phase of citizen’s lives.

Whether it is attainment, employment or income, on many measures the gaps between Britain’s richest and poorest only widen from birth. Some local areas are facing particular challenges, with twelve Opportunity Areas announced so far to help. The Secretary of State has made social mobility her number one priority for post-Brexit Britain, with support across Government including through the industrial and digital strategies. Reform is keen to bring together key voices to raise the profile of successful solutions that are already having an impact, and to identify further areas for improvement.


08:50 – 09.00 Welcome and introduction: Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform and Melanie Richards, Partner and Deputy Chair, KPMG UK

Andrew Haldenby, Reform

Melanie Richards

09.00 – 10.00 Keynote speech: The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities

Justine Greening

Justine Greening launching the government’s social mobility strategy

10.00 – 10.50 Panel session one: Years 0-14 – a fair start in life 

Family background has an impact on life chances from the very beginning, with outcomes as early as infant health affected by sociodemographic circumstances. Gaps continue through attainment in primary and secondary school, and are often quoted as the key obstacle to equal opportunities later in life. Are interventions such as child tax credits, free childcare entitlements, universal free school meals and the pupil premium the right way to overcome them?

This panel explored how the playing field can be levelled when disadvantage is established so early in life, and how value for money can be achieved in the pursuit of doing so.

  • Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation
  • Lucy Powell MP, Member, Education Select Committee and Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Families in the Early Years
  • Sam Freedman, Executive Director for Participant Impact and Delivery, Teach First
  • Chair: Emilie Sundorph, Researcher, Reform

Emilie Sundorph

Sir Kevan Collins

Sam Freedman

Lucy Powell MP

Panel 1 speakers

10.50 – 11.10 Coffee break

11:10 – 12.00 Panel session two: Years 14-21 – developing future capabilities (in partnership with KPMG)

At the end of secondary school, children and their families make important choices about future options, with many starting the transition into employment. But choices are often made with limited information and too many young people still leave formal education unprepared for the next stage.

This session focused on how clear and meaningful pathways can be offered to all young people, and offer practical examples and suggestions for good practice to get key players to work better together, especially in social mobility cold spots.

  • Emran Mian, Director of Strategy and Social Mobility, Department for Education
  • David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
  • Claire Warnes, Head of Education, Skills and Productivity, KPMG
  • Chair: David Johnston, Chief Executive, Social Mobility Foundation

David Johnston


Emran Mian

Claire Warnes

David Hughes

Panel 2 speakers

12:00- 12.50 Panel session three: Years 21-67 – rewarding lives for every citizen (in partnership with Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

Despite record levels of employment, the nature of work is changing rapidly, with more self-employment, a growing skills gap, and intensifying global competition. Real wages have fallen, and automation and artificial intelligence are disrupting a growing number of roles and sectors, but in different ways and at different speeds. Panellists explored what good work and inclusive growth looks like, and what employers and learning providers can do to support social mobility.

  • James Kemptom, Chair, Oldham Opportunity Area Partnership Board, Department for Education.
  • Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation
  • Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation
  • Chair: Helen Barnard, Head of Analysis, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Helen Barnard

Helen Milner

James Kempton

Chi Onwurah MP

Panel 3 speakers

12.50 – 13.00 Closing remark

13:00 Lunch

13.30 Close

This event is being held in partnership with:



14 December 2017
08.50 - 13.30