News August 2018 Blog: A Levels – the results!

Blog: A Levels – the results!

16 August 2018

Helen Grimshaw, Senior Economist and Head of Strategy & Analytics, FRC

Today, students across the country will open the envelope that tells them if they have achieved the A Level results they hoped for. Will their grades take them to the next step – a university place, a job, an apprenticeship, further education or training, or a combination of the above?

Education is acknowledged as one of the greatest keys to career success and social mobility but where you start from still makes a difference to your prospects.

Research* shows that students from low-income backgrounds face significant challenges in achieving good exam results. Even if their grades are good, they are often not encouraged to raise their aspirations and don’t have the ’soft’ skills, extra-curricular opportunities or access to professional networks to translate those grades into career success. And if someone from a working-class background does make it into a managerial or professional job, they tend to earn less on average than those from more affluent families – the “class pay gap”.

Why does social mobility matter?  
Social mobility enables people to achieve their maximum potential and creates a fairer society. It means companies gain access to a more diverse and highly skilled workforce, which is fundamental to business success today. It leads to better service to customers, better decision making, better recruitment and retention, and improved employee satisfaction. Many of the mobility interventions that raise students’ aspirations, widen recruitment, and build confidence in work, can also promote increased diversity more generally.

What is the FRC doing?
The FRC is committed to reaching out to those who may not have otherwise considered a career in the sectors we work with. In July, colleagues across the FRC welcomed eight work experience students who undertook a packed programme of learning, work shadowing and gaining advice on CV drafting. The students took on a project about UK business and made a presentation to staff about their experience at the end of the week. Their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive not just about the experience they gained but also about the range of work at the FRC.

Most of the students came through the Speakers for Schools Programme, which is a charity providing talks in state schools by leading figures from industry and routes into work experience that would otherwise not be open to them.

Good luck today!

I remember my A level results day really clearly and how incredible it felt to get the grades I needed to go to the University of Nottingham to study economics. I was the first generation of my family to go to University or do A Levels and I think I was fortunate that I, somewhat randomly, chose Nottingham – far enough from home to be independent but near enough to visit! Nottingham were one of the pioneers of accessibility for those from less well-off backgrounds. They run the Nottingham Potential Bursary and student support funds to help those who might otherwise not have made it to university, and to which I give back today in thanks for my opportunity.  
*Recent research on social mobility
Disadvantaged pupils who perform strongly in primary school, are much more likely to fall behind at secondary school, compared to other high attaining students and are less likely to achieve the top grades that open doors to universities and employers: while 72% of non-disadvantaged high attainers achieve 5 A*-A grades or more at GCSE, only 52% of disadvantaged high attainers do.

Potential for Success, Dr Rebecca Montacute, The Sutton Trust, 2018.

The UK’s top professions remain disproportionately populated by alumni of private schools and Oxbridge, despite these educating only a small minority of the population (estimates suggest about 7% attended private schools, less than 1% Oxbridge).

Leading People 2016: The educational backgrounds of the UK professional elite Dr. Philip Kirby February 2016, The Sutton Trust.

Those from working-class backgrounds earn on average £6,800 less than colleagues from professional and managerial backgrounds. This is partially explained by differences in education and occupational segregation but even when comparing individuals with the same education, occupation and level of experience, those from working-class backgrounds are still paid £2,242 less than more privileged colleagues; the “class pay gap” is particularly marked in finance, medicine and IT.

Social Mobility, the Class Pay Gap and Intergenerational Worklessness: New Insights from The Labour Force Survey, Sam Friedman, Daniel Laurison and Lindsey Macmillan 26 January 2017 London School of Economics and University College London for the Social Mobility Commission.


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