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Check job applicants’ school background, MPs tell employers



Employers should judge the educational attainment of job applicants in the context of their schools’ average performance scores to widen access to top roles, MPs and peers have said.

The all party parliamentary group (APPG) on social mobility, in a report published today titled The Class Ceiling, has called on employers to adopt ‘contextual recruitment’ practices.

The group warned that thousands of young people face a lost opportunity if details like the average performance scores of the schools attended by applicants aren’t considered by employers.

The idea is already supported by the government’s own Social Mobility Commission and former cabinet minister Matt Hancock.

Employers, supported by government, have to do more to improve diversity through their recruitment practices

Proponents of the policy say it ensures employers don’t simply look at raw attainment grades of prospective employees, but also take into account other factors which reflect “potential and ambition”, and some large firms have already adopted the practice.

It follows the release of a report by the Sutton Trust that found that the UK’s top jobs remain “disproportionately populated” by the alumni of private schools and top universities.

Justin Madders, the Labour MP and APPG co-chair, has called for a “much more strategic approach” to social mobility, and said this should include links between schools, universities and employers, while Sir Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust chair, agreed action was needed.

“Employers, supported by government, have to do more to improve diversity through their recruitment practices, including through greater use of contextual admissions,” Lampl added.

The use of contextual recruitment practices has previously been mooted by the government’s own Social Mobility Commission, and Hancock launched a consultation on plans to implement it in Whitehall last year during his tenure at the cabinet office.

However, not everyone in the schools community is in favour of the policy.

The Independent Schools Council is “uneasy” about what it described as attempts to “deselect job applicants on the basis of background”.

Alan Milburn

But the APPG said the practice has been “widely suggested” as key to addressing access issues in evidence to its inquiry, and revealed how some employers had espoused the virtues of such an approach in their own submissions.

KPMG, one of the country’s big four auditors, told the group that considering a candidate’s context was “an important part of its recruitment process”, because it recognises that high grades are “in no way a reflection of their potential and ambition”.

Another of the country’s largest auditors, Deloitte, has also announced it is adopting contextualised admissions, including adjusting its academic and internal assessment requirements for applicants with ‘contextual flags’, the report found.

The group has now called for improved access to career advice and work experience, and said schools should “raise aspirations by encouraging reading for pleasure, provide educational trips and ensure that are offering out-of-school studying opportunities, sport and arts provision for disadvantaged students at all stages of education”.

“Employers look for confidence, resilience, social skills and self-motivation in their employees, but for those who have had little to no exposure to extracurricular activities, work experience or mentoring, these skills can be difficult to acquire,” the group’s joint chairs Justin Madders and Baroness Tyler said in a foreword.

Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility Commission, welcomed the APPG’s intervention, and warned that people from more affluent backgrounds who attend private schools and elite universities “take a disproportionate number of the best jobs while those from poorer backgrounds are being systematically locked out”.

“We welcome the findings in this report and fully support its recommendations – in particular, the call for employers to use contextualised recruitment tools and for unpaid internships to be banned.”



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  1. Schools should “raise aspirations by encouraging reading for pleasure, provide educational trips and ensure that are offering out-of-school studying opportunities, sport and arts provision for disadvantaged students at all stages of education”

    In our submission to national government on Schools that work for everyone, I noted that one of the major barriers to progress has been the dismantling of the local authority structures that previously have been a uniting force. We learned last week that, following the outsourcing of RBWM’s Children’s services to Richmond/Kingston, RBWM will no longer run its Duke of Edinburgh award centre, so all schools now only have the option to set up their own centre at a cost of £1000, and there won’t be central opportunities provided for training new leaders and support workers for the DofE in our area.

    How are we to reach the disadvantaged children if they are not in our school, or in our sphere of influence? Are Claires Court pupils to be disadvantaged by attending a school that will still run a DofE centre? As the recent data publications show, there is slim chance of disadvantaged children turning up in selective grammar schools, and to be honest little more opportunity of those in disadvantage turning up at excellent comprehensives in leafy shires.
    It may be that voters write with their hearts and minds, but vote with their pockets; Theresa May’s local constituency is landslide tory area, and her role has always been inclusive, accommodating, supportive of those least likely to help themselves. But our council taxes are far too low to provide for the services people actually need, and the race to the bottom to reduce rates to satisfy the electorate is the major cause of our local society’s poverty. To reach people in poverty, we need Libraries open, good public transport, and a genuine sense that the local community is working for the good of all. Outsourcing every service to other quangos whilst reducing the local authority headcount is a guarantee of the councillors becoming unaccountable to their electorate. It will take years to roll back such ‘outsourcing’; even if it were possible, we have knocked their office block down and sold the land to developers.