Unleashing Aspiration launch

As a member of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, the Academy was delighted to host today’s launch of the panel’s report Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions chaired by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP

Cabinet Office news release:

'Closed Shop' Britain must end to unleash aspiration in all children, report concludes

Elitism in the professions and a lack of focus on careers in schools mean that bright young people from middle class as well as lower income backgrounds are being shut out from professional jobs, the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP, Chair of the Fair Access to the Professions Panel, said today.

Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions concludes that without action to address Britain's ‘closed shop’ mentality, tomorrow’s generation of talented young people will miss out on a new wave of social mobility.

Up to seven million more professionals are likely to be needed in Britain by 2020 as the global economy expands. A new focus is therefore needed, the report says, to unleash aspiration in all children and make social mobility the number one social policy priority for this and future governments.

Over 80 recommendations are in the final report including:

* All young children need dedicated careers support from primary school. ‘Connexions’ is not the right service for this and should be replaced.

* Every state school should provide soft skills training and Ofsted should inspect schools on their extra curricular training.

* Cadet schemes should be available for all state schools to increase confidence in children and open up jobs at higher levels in the armed forces. Currently the majority of schemes run in independent schools.

* Parents should have the right of redress for schools consistently failing their children and have the right to move children to better schools.

* At the same time the professions should review their recruitment and internship practices and report to Government by 2010 on improvements.

* Statistics should be published on university admissions annually with more detail on pupil backgrounds. The senior civil service should take the lead by publishing the socio-economic backgrounds of all entrants to the senior civil service, drawing on what they currently do for diversity.

* Universities should offer modular degrees and flexible learning. Student finance should be available for part-time students, as they are for full-time students.

* People needing training should have their own Government funded budget which individuals control through a new ‘Lifelong Skill Account’ worth up to £5,000.

Panel Chair, The Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP, said:

“There is a chasm between where we are and where we need to be if Britain is to realise the social and economic benefits of huge potential growth in professional employment. We need a new recognition: that a closed shop mentality in our country means that too many people from middle income as well as low income families encounter doors that are shut to their talents. And we need a new focus: unleashing aspiration, not just beating poverty.

“The Report recommends how the professions, the government and others can unleash the pent-up aspiration that exists in the young people of our country. Not everyone can be a doctor or a lawyer – and not everyone will want to be – but those with ability and aptitude need a fair crack of the whip to realise their aspirations. And in more disadvantaged communities we need to systematically raise the aspirations of those youngsters and families who simply do not believe they will ever progress.

“It's not that many young people do not have aspirations. It is that they are blocked. It is not that they do not have talent. To coin a phrase, Britain's got talent – lots of it. It is not ability that is unevenly distributed in our society. It is opportunity. In this sense the professions simply reflect a wider problem in British society: a governing assumption in too many of our institutions that progress can be achieved on the basis of a limited pool of talent having access to a limited set of opportunities. Such elitism is unjust socially. And it can no longer work economically.”

The Panel found that many of Britain's professions have become more socially exclusive over the past few decades. As a consequence, bright people from all backgrounds are facing not only financial obstacles, but also social and cultural barriers – despite having the aspiration and talent required for a professional career.

Annex A The Report's key findings include:

* Up to 9 in 10 new jobs in the future will be professional jobs.

* Tomorrow’s professional is growing up in a family that is better off than 7 out of 10 families in Britain.

* The typical doctor or lawyer of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 5 in 6 of all families in the UK.

* The typical journalist or accountant of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 3 in 4 of all families in the UK.

* The typical engineer or teacher of the future will today be growing up in a family better off than 2 in 3 of all families in the future.

* Over half of professional occupations such as law and finance are currently dominated by people from independent schools which are attended by just 7% of the population. 75% of judges and 45% of top civil servants were independently schooled.

* A typical professional born in 1958 came from a family that earned 17% more than the average family income; but by 1970 the family income gap between those who went on to pursue a professional career and the average family had risen to 27% with journalism – along with accountancy – seeing the biggest shift to more social exclusivity.

* The Report makes 88 recommendations to government, the professions, charities and others. The recommendations range from putting social mobility at the top of the political agenda, to practical proposals which will open fairer access to the professions.

Key recommendations include:

Social Mobility

* Social mobility to be the top social policy priority for this and any future government.

* A new expert social mobility commission to advise government, professions, employers and other public bodies and oversee progress made.


* Reforming the Gifted and Talented programme to a new “raising aspirations” scheme to provide personal mentors, work tasters and soft skill development.

* More information and support being provided to help parents help their children.

* Role models to inspire young people through a high profile ‘Yes you can’ campaign backed by a volunteer network of student and young professional mentors.

* Finding new forms of partnerships for social action through ‘Social Mobility Bonds’ with government and investors co-funding social mobility projects.


* Closing the attainment gap in education by examining reforms such as :

* Expanding City Academies at primary and secondary level;

* More pupil premium funding in disadvantaged areas;

* A new parental right of redress, with a voucher worth 150% of the cost of their child's education where schools are deemed underperforming.

* A dedicated, professional careers service in every school and college as a replacement for the failing Connexions careers service.

* Careers advice to be available from late primary school onwards – and to target parents through a new careers prospectus.

* A new focus on school outcomes – including incentives for student outcomes and Ofsted to inspect on quality of careers advice and extra-curricular activity.

* A radical overhaul of work experience programmes in schools

* A new emphasis on soft skills development - including team working, leadership, and presentation skills.

* Cadet Force activities to be available in every school that wants them.


* Universities to offer modular degrees and part time students to get loans.

* Fee-free higher education for students staying at home and studying at their local university, especially mature people with families.

* Supporting all universities to take into account the educational and social context of pupils' achievement in their admissions processes.

* New partnerships between universities and local schools and professions.

* 3,000 ‘Apprenticeship Scholarships’ to university per year – rising to 10,000 over time – to fully fund talented apprentices to progress to university and combine their work with the opportunity of higher education.


* Fair rules for internships through a nationally agreed Internships Code between government, employers, professions and unions.

* Internships openly advertised through a new website.

* A kite-mark for identifying high quality internships.

* Support for internships through means tested micro-loans and private finance.

* Low cost or free accommodation at universities for young people to undertake internships. Recruitment

* A pilot to record socio-economic background of new entrants to the Senior Civil Service.

* All professions to undertake reviews of fair access in their professions, reporting back to Government by 2012.

Flexible Professions

* Each profession to establish clear progression routes from vocational training – including introducing apprenticeship schemes – to allow more non-graduates to start out in a professional career.

* A new model of training through ‘Lifelong Skill Accounts’ to provide a voucher worth up to £5,000 to empower people to learn flexibly and choose from a range of courses at the time, place and provider of their choice.

* The Government to expand apprenticeship schemes to Whitehall departments – and allow successful apprentices to become eligible for the Fast Stream management programme.

* Recognising the contribution of further education as a driver of social mobility – including a model of “HE within FE” and new freedoms for further education colleges.

Notes for editors

  1. The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions was announced in January as part of the Government's New Opportunities White Paper, outlining the Government's strategy to improve social mobility.
  2. The Panel was commissioned by the Prime Minister to review the processes and structures that govern recruitment into the professions, and make recommendations to both the Government and the Professions on action that will improve access for all.
  3. The Panel consists of eighteen representatives from the Professions, (including the media, law, business and finance, architecture, politics, and medicine), and two experts on social mobility, with the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP as Chair. The Panel was supported by a Secretariat drawn from the Cabinet Office.
  4. The Panel's work did not look at some of the wider drivers of social mobility as covered elsewhere in the New Opportunities White Paper, and did not look at employment law, illegal discrimination, or wider issues of equality such as race or gender.