UK Politics

Ed Miliband attacks vocational qualifications 'snobbery'

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Media captionMiliband: "We must reject the snobbery that says the only route to social mobility is through university"

Labour leader Ed Miliband has criticised "snobbery" against people who gain vocational qualifications rather than going to university.

He claimed social mobility was "sliding backwards" and said educational reform "must not just be about changing the odds so that kids from poorer backgrounds make it to university".

In a speech, Mr Miliband added there had to be a "better offer" for those who do not enter higher education.

Ministers have rejected his criticism.

The Labour leader told a conference organised by the Sutton Trust, which promotes opportunities for young people from underprivileged backgrounds, that "tackling social mobility is a huge mountain to climb and the last Labour government took some important steps".

"But... this government seems to think we can let those at the top take whatever rewards they think fit and somehow everyone else can just play catch-up."

'Celebrate'

Mr Miliband said allowing young people from poorer backgrounds to reach university was crucial to opening "closed circles" of Britain, "not just to the universities, but to journalism, law, finance - and politics too".

But he added that "the debate has been too narrowly focused.... we should reject the snobbery that assumes the only route to social mobility runs through university - as if there is only one pathway to success".

He said it was important to "celebrate" vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships and other training opportunities for young people who do not go to university.

"Ministers should show as much respect for young people whose skills secure them an apprenticeship as those who win places at university."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who will address the same conference on Tuesday, is expected to dismiss Mr Miliband's criticism, promising to address the "corrosive rift" in Britain's education system between private and state schools.

The Liberal Democrat leader is expected to say: "We do need to ensure that our school system as a whole promotes fairness and mobility, that heals the rift in opportunities.

"We are committed to narrowing the gap in our school system - state and private - and ensuring that all children are given the chance to rise. The way to do that is to make the state education system better - to level up - and ensure that anyone can get ahead."

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