Social Mobility Myth; How Labour Has Punished Middle-Class Families for Problem 'That Doesn't Exist'

Article excerpt

Byline: James Slack Home Affairs Editor

MIDDLE-CLASS families have been on the wrong end of deeply damaging Government policies designed to fix a social mobility problem which does not exist, academics warn today.

The study for the Civitas think-tank says Labour squandered billions on social engineering projects which had little or no impact on a child's chances of success in later life.

In part, this is because the claim that the nation is a closed shop to less well-off youngsters when it comes to employment opportunities is a myth, the study says. Having re-examined official data, comparing children born in 1958 with those born in 1970, it concludes that Britain is actually an open and meritocratic society in which more than half of the population are in a different class to the one in which they were born.

The overview of the report warns: 'Many politicians are badly informed about the facts of social mobility in modern Britain. And because they don't know the facts, they support policies which are at best unnecessary, and at worst deeply damaging.'

According to the report's author Peter Saunders, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Sussex, a prime example of this is the way 'middleclass parents are deprived of the right to choose the schools their children attend'.

Such 'old-style socialist' policies - such as introducing school admissions lotteries - are dis missed as having 'little or nothing to do with increasing individual opportunities or rewarding effort and ability'.

Other policies which come under attack include A-level grade inflation, positive discrimination in favour of working-class university applicants and attempts to flatten income distribution by taxing the middle classes more to fund greater welfare spending. …