Paving the way for Pathways to the Professions

James Turner reflects on the new phase of Pathways to Law and hopes of extending the model to other areas

Today we announced a £2.4m extension to Pathways to Law, backed by a grant from the Legal Education Foundation, which means that the programme will reach 1200 more students. This is great news for the Trust, for the legal profession and for the young people who will benefit.

Since Pathways was originally developed, based on a model at Edinburgh University, back in 2006/7, the access to professions area has changed considerably.  As I have written before there are now many more projects and organisations working in this space, and the issue has increased policy and media prominence. In fact, it was the work the Trust published in 2005 drawing attention to the social exclusivity of top lawyers – and, subsequently, those in other leading professions – which paved the way for Alan Milburn’s report in 2009.

The challenge has been to keep Pathways fresh and relevant – and to show that, despite all the other good work going on, there is still an important place for it. Pathways scale and reach, for one thing, sets it apart: in its next phase it will be delivered by around a dozen universities all over the country. Importantly, a large swathe of provision will be outside the capital, where the biggest problems of social mobility lie.

Pathways also offers a sustained programme throughout the sixth form, rather than a one off hit, which experience suggests is more likely to have a transformative and lasting impact.    And Pathways twin approach – of offering university access support alongside professional skills and work experience – remains the ‘best bet’ in terms of increasing access to the profession for low and middle income young people.  It is the combination of soft skills with the right academic credentials which is so important in securing a job in this highly competitive area.

This employability dimension will be greatly strengthened when the seventh cohort of students join us in the Autumn. A new component – Pathways Plus – will support the most engaged Pathways graduates and other top students into their undergraduate years.  We will offer them a range of mentoring, skills development and networking opportunities – feeding in to law firms’ own talent pipelines. This should be a tremendous boost for the Pathways students’ prospects of gaining a training contract – whether they are aiming for the Magic Circle or a legal aid practise.

Crucially – and all too often forgotten – we are putting in place an independent academic evaluation of Pathways to add to the promising tracking and survey data we have collected to date.  After all, changing trajectories and showing impact is what the scheme is all about.

The legal profession has grasped the nettle when it comes to Pathways and realised the added value it can bring to their own CSR work – and their graduate recruitment efforts.   But there’s no reason for it to stop at law. We know that other professions – the media, medicine, accountancy, the City – all face similar problems and can ill afford to fish in a shallow pool of talent.

Pathways is already up and running in real estate and property at Reading University and we are keen to consider other opportunities. The model is an important way of cultivating the talents of bright students in state schools who are forging their education and career paths.  Time and again, the Trust’s programmes prove exceptional low and middle income students are out there  – let’s make it easier for the professions to access them.

Increasing social mobility in UK financial services

Lee Elliott Major on why the City needs to improve social mobility for economic as well as social reasons.

Thomas Wood is what the Sutton Trust is all about. A bright state school boy whose parents had never experienced higher education, he wasn’t sure whether study, let alone at a prestigious university, was for him. One week at the Sutton Trust summer school changed all that. Like many of the pupils with modest family backgrounds taking part, this week-long taster of university transformed Thomas’s life. He went on to gain a place at Nottingham University. During his degree he got an internship at a major bank. Now Thomas is an analyst at Citigroup, leading a successful career in the City.

Sadly, Thomas’s story of upward mobility remains the exception not the rule. Britain’s low social mobility, and the shocking waste of talent that goes with it, is arguably the biggest social challenge of our times. No more is this true than in the financial services sector. Research from the Sutton Trust into the country’s professional elites found that nearly six in ten (57%) of leading people in financial services attended private schools – which educate just 7% of pupils. Less than one in ten had attended a state comprehensive school. The remainder were educated at grammar or former direct grant schools.

It’s figures like these that motivate the work of the Sutton Trust. Founded and led by the successful philanthropist Sir Peter Lampl, the Trust’s aim is simple: to improve social mobility through education. The Trust is expanding its programmes, working with a range of partners, to provide life-transforming opportunities for talented pupils from low and middle income homes. The Trust’s summer schools are now the largest national access scheme for universities – benefiting nearly 2000 students this year at nine prestigious universities.

The Trust’s Pathways to Law programme, supported by the Legal Education Foundation and leading law firms, meanwhile supports state school pupils thinking about a career in law. It works with students over a number of years: from sixth form onwards, crucially enabling students to get work experience in law firms.

Could a similar programme be established to attract such students into the City? This is the question driving work by Boston Consulting Group for the Trust. Their study of the financial services sector has uncovered many insights. While there are laudable schemes across a diverse sector, support for non-privileged students can be fragmented, with little evaluation of its impact. In major banks, efforts to improve social mobility are not linked to their actual recruitment. The full business case for social mobility has not been made.

The Trust will be sharing its findings with leading organisations across the sector. But the challenge for us is already clear: how can the City work effectively to ensure that it benefits from more talented youngsters like Thomas Wood in the future?

This post first appeared on TheCityUK blog

On your bike – social mobility outside London

James Turner says that a priority is spreading the riches of opportunity beyond the capital

A young man from a deprived borough of London, with immigrant parents, was describing his aspiration to read Law at Oxbridge. He listed the opportunities he’d accessed over the last two years in pursuit of this dream: an internship programme, a leadership development initiative, one of our Sutton Trust summer schools – and he was being mentored by a senior partner at one of the world’s leading law firms.

It was a tremendous story of determination, aspiration and – very likely – social mobility.

But a question struck me.  How likely is it that he’d have these same chances if he lived not in Hackney, but in, say, Blackpool, Scunthorpe or Hastings? Almost certainly nil.  And our society would be poorer as a result.

It is always striking how much activity is focused in London. There are good reasons for this – London has poverty and inequality; it is the centre of business for many of the wealthiest and most active corporations who sponsor much good work; and there is no better place to get your work noticed than within spitting distance of Whitehall.

But London’s school results are out shining other urban areas.  Its university progression rates are higher.  Spend per head in schools is generally greater – even before you factor in the spending of charities and corporates.

And some of the most pressing issues of social mobility lie outside the capital – in coastal towns, ex-industrial heartlands in The Midlands and the North, and in forgotten rural areas.  Not only do these areas face material poverty, but often cultural deprivation too.  The signs of aspiration a young Londoner may see out of his or her window – Canary Wharf, The City, the towers of Westminster – seem a million miles away from a crumbling social housing estate in the North East.

The challenge for organisations like ours is to reach these communities directly through our work – and to make it feasible and cost effective for others in the capital to access this national pool of untapped talent.  It is a redistribution of opportunities from the capital outwards.

There are some good schemes underway. The Social Mobility Foundation’s programme to provide City internships to disadvantaged young people from the regions is a great example – and we plan something similar thing in the legal sector next year as part of Pathways to Law. And one of the advantages our summer schools bring to London universities is a truly national reach – with students recruited from all corners of the UK.

But there also needs to be a more systematic way – through funding, partnership work and collaboration – of ensuring activity is not focussed on a few lucky ones, but spread where it is most needed. The Education Endowment Foundation is doing sterling work.  The projects it has supported range from Bournemouth in the South to County Durham in the North, via almost every local authority region in between.

Social mobility is about more than turning on the tap of talent for one city, important though that is. The country is awash with young men and women with great potential who equally deserve a chance to shine.

The Sutton Trust at 15

By Sir Peter Lampl

It is fifteen years since I set up the Sutton Trust to improve social mobility in this country. I wanted to ensure that bright children from low or middle income homes had a fair chance of going to a top university and into a leading profession or occupation.

There has been progress in the last fifteen years, but our elites remain largely closed to those without the right school tie and networks, as our research report based on the birthday lists of national newspapers highlighted again this week.

Perhaps most importantly there is now a political consensus that improving social mobility is the major social issue of our time. The 120 research projects and over 200 programmes that we have funded have helped put it there.

At our anniversary lunch on Tuesday, which was attended by 200 supporters and allies of the Trust, it was great to be joined both by David Blunkett – the secretary of state with whom I first worked as chair of the Trust – and Michael Gove, who gave a characteristically eloquent and generous speech about our work.

We have had strong support from all the leaders of all three main political parties over the years, and I was delighted with the generous comments made by David Cameron and Ed Miliband for our anniversary video.

The Trust’s first major programme – university summer schools at leading universities – have helped to narrow the participation gap at our elite universities. In 1997, 49 per cent of entrants to Oxbridge were from state schools; now it is 59 per cent, though it is still below the two-thirds from state schools when I was there.

Recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that there has also been some narrowing of the gap in higher education participation more widely: at age 18 or 19 the gap between state school students from the most and least deprived fifths of the population fell from 40 percentage points in 2004-05 to 37 percentage points in 2009-10.

At the same time, some professions, notably law, are now reaching out more to young people of all backgrounds with the help of programmes like Pathways to Law which we developed in partnership with the College of Law and major law firms. More generally, the quality of teaching and leadership is better in urban schools, especially in London.

But we still have a long way to go to open up opportunities. This week’s report showed again how our independent schools educate 7 per cent of the population, but 44 per cent of leading people were privately educated. More than 12 per cent of our elites went to just ten independent schools, with one in 25 at Eton alone.

Our schools are still the most socially segregated among advanced nations. Our independent day schools remain closed to 90 per cent of families who can’t afford the fees, unlike the situation when I was growing up, when 70% of them were principally state funded.  That is why we continue to argue for a state-funded Open Access scheme which half the independent day schools have said they would adopt if funding were available. This would transform mobility at the top.

So what about the future? Improving social mobility is like the war on cancer. It will never be won. Yet with the right research, the right programmes and working closely with government, we can improve mobility and make a real difference to many more lives.

So I’m determined that the Sutton Trust will continue to provide the vehicle for that work, long into the future.

We’re expanding our work, so we can do the research and undertake the programmes that will make a difference from early childhood right through to access to the professions. We’re keen to build on existing partnerships and develop new ones.

Working together, we have made a big difference. I hope that we will continue to make an even bigger difference.