Barber to lead region’s social mobility taskforce

Government advisor and college and university chiefs are among members for new commission

Government advisor and college and university chiefs are among members for new commission

20 Dec 2022, 16:21

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Education and business chiefs in the south west of England will join a new commission being formed to drive social mobility for youngsters in the region.

The South-West Social Mobility Commission will be chaired by Sir Michael Barber, a north Devon resident himself who has advised awarding giant Pearson and led the prime minister’s delivery unit from 2001-2005. He is currently chancellor for the University of Exeter and was recently commissioned by the chancellor in the autumn statement to advise the government on skills reform plans.

Also on the commission are the university’s vice chancellor Lisa Roberts, PETROC College chief executive and principal Sean Mackney, Babcock International’s Brendan Staniforth, as well as school, council and business organisation chiefs.

It follows a report published in April on social mobility in the south west by the University of Exeter’s professor of social mobility Lee Elliot Major and Dr Anne-Marie Sim from the university’s centre for social mobility.

Both will support the commission’s work, the university confirmed.

The commission aims to boost the prospects for disadvantaged young people, after April’s research found Devon, Cornwall and Somerset were among the lowest rates of attainment in the country for disadvantaged students.

Just 40 per cent of disadvantaged pupils achieved a pass in GCSE English and maths in 2019 compared with almost 60 per cent in inner London, according to the commission.

Progression into higher education was also low, it said.

The commission will gather data and research to publish annual social mobility statistics, as well as produce advice and guidance to education, business, public sector and charitable status chiefs with the aim of boosting the prospects of students.

It will set goals for 2050 as well as each five-year period between now and then to turn around the situation.

It comes just weeks after the government confirmed Cornwall will be given adult education budget powers by 2025 under a devolution agreement, with negotiations continuing for a deal for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

Professor Elliot Major said the commission will “inform decision making across all quarters and irrespective of changes in politics or personnel, to obtain the long-term support needed to truly transform outcomes”.

Sir Michael Barber added that there was “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”.

The 12 commissioners are as follows:

  • Michael Barber (Chair), chancellor of the University of Exeter
  • Lisa Roberts, vice chancellor of University of Exeter
  • 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

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