This report from the Department for Children Schools and Families examines why young people from poor families are more likely to experience lower achievement in school, and more likely to participate in a range of risky behaviours as teenagers, than young people from richer families.
There is widespread concern about the relative lack of social mobility in the UK, compared to other countries and the key role that education policy may have to play in improving future social mobility.
The research considered how young people from different socio-economic backgrounds differ in terms of a wide range of education and behavioural outcomes. Only one in five of the poorest fifth of the sample attained five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, compared to almost three quarters of the richest fifth. This is a gap of over 50 percentage points.
The main finding of the research was that differences in parental education between young people from different socio-economic backgrounds provide a major explanation for differences in their outcomes, particularly in terms of educational attainment.
This relationship was most marked in the case of mothers where the higher educational qualifications of the mother were reflected in the higher child test scores.
This suggests that interventions which raise women’s education levels may yield an intergenerational pay-off in terms of their children’s education, in addition to any benefits that may accrue to the individuals themselves.
Schools and neighbourhoods seem less important than attributes of parents and young people themselves in explaining differences in outcomes between young people from rich and poor backgrounds. However, neighbourhood deprivation does appear to play a role in explaining who becomes NEET (not in employment, education or training).
Drivers and Barriers to Educational Success is available from DCSF