Investment in teachers and school leaders is needed to transform social mobility, the Justine Greening has claimed in a speech in which she set out her thoughts on Brexit.

However, no new initiatives or funding were announced during the address at the Social Mobility Commission conference this morning.

Schools face real-terms cuts of up to £3 billion over the next few years as a result of funding pressures, including increases in teachers’ salaries, pensions and national insurance contributions.

Justine Greening

In a speech which only mentioned plans to open new grammar schools once, Greening said transformation of social mobility could only happen through “prioritising long-term capacity building in our education system”.

“And as with all sound investment, when we invest in human capital, the payback is for the long term,” she said.

“So for me that means above all investing in the people who are in our education system, in teachers and school leaders, in the early years professional. In the children’s social workers. In the teachers and leaders in further and higher education.”

Greening said her focus was teacher quality, and this would be boosted through existing schemes to strengthen qualified teacher status and qualifications for school leaders, “new and innovative teacher training models” and the government’s £75 million teaching and leadership innovation fund.

The education secretary also reflected on the move made yesterday by the prime minister Theresa May to trigger the process which will see Britain leave the European Union.

Greening said the work started by May would “shape our children’s opportunities”, and said the generation who had made the choice to leave the EU had a responsibility to “make sure that that choice is the best possible choice it can be for our children”.

“In Brexit Britain, social mobility is now no longer a nice-to-have, a good thing to do, it is a cold, hard, economic imperative for our country,” she said.