At TLN central, we spend a great deal of time working on bringing people together, but this is a complex area and requires lots of careful planning. However, if done well, linking students or parents with other people- they may not normally have a chance to interact with- can be hugely beneficial. As Pears Foundation states: “There is strong evidence that high levels of meaningful contact between people from different backgrounds can reduce prejudice; increase trust and understanding between groups and lead to a greater sense of togetherness”.
This sense of togetherness is crucial to cohesive and secure communities. However, it’s not just happy communities that we are striving for. A happier place to live is the starting point that can lead on to so many other positive things, such as social mobility.
For those unfamiliar with the term, social mobility refers to the real movement from poverty or low income to a higher income and giving people more career opportunities and access by allowing them to realise their full potential. It’s not just about keeping up appearances like in a Victorian novel!
The Sutton Trust published three reports in 2017; painting a picture of how social mobility in the UK has evolved through the twenty-year history of the Trust. (You can access the reports by clicking on https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/social-mobility-2017-summit-research/). Some of their key findings are quite surprising, such as the assertion that the UK is one of the lowest performing countries for income mobility across the OECD. The reports also stress how ‘improved social mobility should lead to an improvement in the match between people and jobs in society. Greater mobility means both that the talents of all young people are recognised and nurtured, and that the barriers to some jobs are reduced—these entry barriers exist because of biases in recruitment processes or inequality of educational opportunity’.
Across the globe, education is seen as a way out of poverty because it enables children from poorer backgrounds to climb up the social ladder. However, there are still many who face glass ceilings created by stereotypes and misunderstandings leading to prejudice and discrimination in the labour market. Furthermore, something which is not often discussed is how fear of discrimination leading to low self-esteem can also be a barrier to aspirations.
Hence, when we talk about reducing prejudice and discrimination through linking, we need to be reminded that striving for this can have real impact in more ways than one can possibly imagine.
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