MPs to lead new study on closing Britain’s Opportunity Gap

“Inequality of opportunity is the challenge of our time”, two MPs have said today as they launch a new project examining the Opportunity Gap with the Social Market Foundation, a cross-party think-tank.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Claire Coutinho MP and David Johnston MP suggest that relying simply on action by central government will not deal with the complexities of how opportunity is spread throughout the UK.

The SMF project – The Opportunity Gap – will urge civil society to act on discrepancies in opportunity within UK regions in the post-Covid world.

Coutinho and Johnston today point to the Social Mobility Commission’s England rankings which show Trafford (24th) ranking 228 places higher than Oldham (252nd) despite being 30 minutes apart and part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority area.

The official Social Mobility Barometer this year showed that only one third (35%) of adults across the UK believe everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their hard work will take them.

Whilst Coutinho and Johnston will be looking at government work including education catch-up and employment support programmes for young people, they said: “This is not just a job for Government,” since businesses and civil society have a key role to play too.

The Opportunity Gap will engage schools and colleges, universities, employers, charities and politicians and explore ways policy can ensure talent is a more important determinant of an individual’s chance of getting on in life than demography.

The research will look at several drivers of the Opportunity Gap, including the resources parents have (financial and non-financial), the quality of education, advice and guidance received and how employers recruit. The project will deliver practical recommendations for organisations and also “call out” those organisations that aren’t doing enough to promote opportunities for young people.

“In the face of the education and employment headwinds of Covid – and with innovation and automation set to drive a larger wedge between high and low skilled jobs – we need to renew our efforts to ensure your ability to get on in life is based on your talent and effort, not where you’re born or who your parents are”, Coutinho and Johnston write in the Daily Telegraph today.

Claire Coutinho (MP for East Surrey) and David Johnston (MP for Wantage), said:

“As the Prime Minister often says, talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. Spreading opportunities for young people is not just a job for Government – it requires everyone who can play a role to do so.

“We are delighted to be working with the Social Market Foundation on identifying the practical ways that schools and colleges, universities, employers, charities and others can help close the Opportunity Gap.”

The Opportunity Gap follows on from the SMF’s 2017 Commission on Inequality Educational, which was led by Nick Clegg and identified a growing educational gap between English regions.


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