Sir Michael Barber, a world-renowned expert on government delivery, will chair the newly created South-West Social Mobility Commission.
The Commission’s work, supported by the University of Exeter, will aim to transform life prospects for disadvantaged young people across the peninsula and help to influence decision-making by schools, local authorities and other organisations to improve social mobility.
Sir Michael, who has advised governments around the world, was recently asked by the Chancellor to help deliver the government’s skills reform programme. The Commission is made up of 12 inaugural commissioners who come from a range of sectors and backgrounds across the region.
The South-West Social Mobility Commission is being established following the publication in April of the report Social Mobility in the South-West, which showed Devon, Cornwall and Somerset had the lowest rates of educational attainment by disadvantaged pupils of any English region.
Gaps in classroom attainment between poorer pupils and their peers in the South-West were found to be the largest of all English regions at the end of both primary and secondary school. Just 40 per cent of disadvantaged pupils attained a standard pass in GCSE English and Maths in 2019 compared with almost 60 per cent in Inner London.
The study also showed progression rates to universities for both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils are the lowest of all regions. Just 17 per cent of disadvantaged students went on to university in 2018/19 compared with 45 per cent in London.
The Commission will be supported by the report’s authors, Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter and former Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, and Dr Anne-Marie Sim based at the University’s Centre for Social Mobility.
The 12 Inaugural Commissioners are:
- Lisa Roberts, Vice Chancellor of Exeter University
- Kate Kennally, Chief Executive of Cornwall Council
- Paul von der Heyde, Chair of Somerset Integrated Care Board
- Lisa Mannall, Chief Executive of Cornwall Education Learning Trust and former South-West Regional Schools Commissioner
- Sean Mackney, Principal and CEO of PETROC College
- Brendan Staniforth, Strategy Delivery Director at Devonport Royal Dockyard (Babcock International)
- Paul Crawford, Chief Executive of Live West
- Karl Tucker, Chair of Yeo Valley Ltd, Chair of HotSW LEP and Interim Chair of GSW
- Tony Rowe, Chair of Exeter Chiefs
- Alice Thomson, Columnist and Interviewer at The Times
- Andrew Moreman, Chief Executive of Young Devon
The Commissioners will work with researchers to collect and publish annual statistics on social mobility in the region. They will produce research and guidance – including directories and practical tools – and promote successful practice to business, education, public services and the third sector. They will set goals for 2050 and for each five-year period between now and then. The aim is to demonstrate significant progress within this decade.
Sir Michael Barber is Chancellor of the University of Exeter and Founder and Chair of Delivery Associates. He led the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit from 2001 to 2005, was Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, and Head of McKinsey’s global education practice. He lives in North Devon.
Sir Michael said: “We have found there is a strong support from those running services and businesses across the region that the facts on the ground need to change if the region is to be prosperous and successful in the decades ahead. People understand that this will require collective and sustained effort to improve life chances for everyone including the most disadvantaged people in our region.”
“The new Commission will lead and co-ordinate efforts to transform social mobility and improve life prospects for disadvantaged young people across the South-West. We hope this coordinated action will transform outcomes for disadvantaged young people across the peninsula over the next 25 years.”
“Commissioners will influence and encourage the private, public and third sectors to embed a social mobility perspective into their decision-making and advocate for the region on the national stage, including in the areas of policy and funding.”
Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, and a member of the Commission, said: “We cannot be a force for positive change without playing a central role in tackling social mobility in our region, and we are determined that the University of Exeter is at the forefront of solving this important issue. We know that disadvantaged pupils in our region are some of the furthest behind in the country at the end of both primary and secondary school, but through our world-class research and partnership approach, we will work to help improve the lives of thousands of young people in the South-West.”
Professor Elliot Major said: “The South-West Social Mobility Commission will bring together different sectors and organisations in coordinated action to transform outcomes for disadvantaged young people across the peninsula over the next 25 years. We are proud that innovative work on this – a national challenge – will be taking place in the South-West.
“The Commission will ensure that addressing the region’s poor social mobility informs decision making across all quarters and irrespective of changes in politics or personnel, to obtain the long-term support needed to truly transform outcomes.”