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Careers Guide

Is Covid-19 A Threat To Social Mobility?

Many of us have seen articles being shared on the negative impact of Covid-19 to social mobility over the past few months. But what does this really mean for young people and is there a solution?

There's no denying the pandemic has and will continue to have a negative economic impact, and those in the most transitional periods of their lives will struggle to find stability and opportunity during this time. As the new term gets underway, it's easy to assume that students' learning and future opportunities are somewhat on track. 

Despite the move back to school, Covid-19 remains a threat to social mobility but there are ways we can help stop the widening attainment gap. Below, we explore:

  • What we’re experiencing at Uptree

  • Our solutions

Taking an exam

Some students' attainment has been negatively impacted by schools closing and loss of opportunities, corresponding to the accelerating threat to social mobility.

The problems

Differences in parental engagement and access to online learning environment

Analysts at LSE have found that, for a number of reasons, ‘children who received free school meals devote significantly less time to schoolwork at home’.

When we think back over the last few months, this is a huge amount of lost time for some students on free school meals, when other students will have been spending regular time doing schoolwork.

Another piece of research found that families with skills, resources and knowledge might compensate for the negative impact of school closure, such as paying for extra tutoring. However, this is not the case for everyone and leaves students whose families can’t afford such things on the back foot. 

Grading crisis

With this year’s A Level and GCSE grades based on mocks, teacher predictions and a questionable algorithm, we saw those students from Ofqual’s lowest socioeconomic category have their proportion of C grades or above reduced by over 10%. Ofqual statistics presented as a kind of post code lottery, depending on your school size and location, to how much your grades were reduced.

These results entrenched disadvantage further for all young people but specifically highlighted the backwards step that those from disadvantaged backgrounds made and the loss of opportunities because of grades being unfairly reduced. 

A widening attainment gap

When these elements are put together, they create the perfect storm for a widening attainment gap. This means disadvantaged groups of students falling behind their peers through no fault of their own. 

In a nutshell, improving social mobility means ensuring someone's background does not impinge their ability to improve their economic and social prospects, as well as enabling them to fare better than past generations.

If we want to ensure this happens for young people, here’s some ways we can act now:

The solution

At Uptree, we've found ways to stop the widening attainment gap and future-proof the career opportunities of young people

Schools outreach

Targeted schools outreach is a key part of what we do at Uptree. Working with schools enables us to keep lines of opportunity open with our corporate partners and ensure that those students who need it, are still able to get work experience, job and apprenticeship opportunities.

Our targeted outreach through assemblies, work experience days and workshops, as well as industry-led careers resources for our partner schools, means we’re reaching talented students, from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Re-thinking grading

Flexibility is key. It’s important that organisations and universities alike understand the disadvantage some students have been put at due to Covid-19 and the grading crisis.

Nottingham Trent University was one of the first to respond to the grading crisis and agree to honour all previously offered places regardless of grades. We love this forward thinking approach! 

Moving opportunities online

As many of us have been working at home for some time now, it’s sometimes easy to forget the financial costs of attending a work experience day, assessment centre or job interview for a young person.

Moving opportunities and events online gets rid of these financial barriers to success, whilst allowing students from disadvantaged areas to engage in ways they haven’t been able to before.


For a young person, having a mentor can be a really valuable experience. It can provide them with access to information on career opportunities that students from disadvantaged backgrounds might not have access to otherwise, and when compared to more advantaged peers.

Mentoring is the perfect way to start this simple knowledge exchange, and this can be incorporated into bite size chunks during Uptree industry events. 

Linking up internal teams to volunteer

There are also ways to help stop the widening attainment gap within your organisation. Through our work experience days, we’ve seen the value of students having the opportunity to speak and connect with professionals from our partner organisations.

Volunteers from your company can give young people the chance to see what working at your organisation is like, inspiring them to look ahead to the future. These interactions are vital in stopping the attainment gap, as students who meet four or more professionals whilst in education are five times more employable when they leave school

Final thoughts

Although the statistics around social mobility are deeply concerning, we believe there are possible solutions to stop the student attainment gap widening and a way to future proof young people’s career opportunities and futures.

This year we are already proud to work with so many companies who are actively working with our diverse, talented network of students to mitigate the threat of Covid-19 to social mobility.

If you’re interested in supporting students and reaching our diverse network, then get in touch with us via for a chat or to join us.