Working class people should lower their ambitions and focus on taking small steps up the career ladder, the UK’s social mobility tsar has announced.
Katharine Birbalsingh, who is also a head teacher, has said too often success is defined as someone from a working class background going to Oxbridge, rather than celebrating “those taking small steps up, like those whose parents were unemployed who now have a job.”
Birbalsingh made the comments in a speech given to set out her “new vision of social mobility” which she intends to implement in her role as chair of the commission, tasked with making sure that circumstances of birth do not determine life outcomes of people in Britain.
Birbalsingh argued that under her leadership, the social mobility commission would move away from the “Dick Whittington” narrative of social mobility which which encourages the idea that people from the north should leave their home town for fame and fortune in London.
“If a child of parents who were long-term unemployed, or who never worked, gets a good job in their local area, isn’t that a success worth celebrating?” she asked.
The head of the Michaela Community school in north London argued that more needs to be done to help “those at the very bottom – particularly those with low levels of basic literacy and numeracy – who cannot therefore take advantage of higher learning and are unable to access higher paid work”.