SIR – Alan Milburn (Comment, May 25) highlights the growing problem of a lack of social mobility in Britain and rightly encourages the Prime Minister to make addressing it the “defining cause of this Parliament”. In support of social mobility, many independent schools are working closely with state schools, as well as fundraising to ensure that admission is based on ability rather than ability to pay.
In addition, one should consider the Character and Resilience Manifesto, produced by the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility, which makes a clear connection between the development of character and perseverance (along with other “soft” skills) and social mobility.
According to the manifesto, there is widespread evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are much less likely than their more affluent peers to possess these “soft” skills. Significantly, the manifesto supports the view that character and resilience can be developed. It defines them as umbrella terms for a range of attributes that help people to make the most of opportunities as they arise, to stick at things and to bounce back from adversity.
The best independent schools put an emphasis on self-control, curiosity, tenacity and the idea that it’s important to try difficult things, to fail sometimes and to try again afterwards. This in turn helps to develop self-esteem and self-confidence.
Of course, the state sector can develop these traits equally well, but in all schools it must be given the necessary recognition, time and resources. We also need to understand that the process isn’t necessarily quick, tangible or indeed measurable.
Headmaster, Warminster School