The former Conservative Secretary of State for Education has posted this on the lack of social mobility in the UK. I've replied as follows:
The key errors are mixed ability teaching, which prevents teachers from matching work closely enough to children's learning needs, Plowden's replacement of literacy with first-hand experience as the basis of primary education - her committee actively discouraged schools from reading non-fiction - and Newsom's modular examinations, which gave us the coursework grind that we are in the process of getting rid of.
You can't start building a house half-way up the walls. A combination of long working hours and limited parental experience of education bring these children to school with very limited language skills. The gap increases as they move through school, as highly educated parents, naturally and rightly, pour their own educational capital into their children every time they speak to them. A current pupil's mother understands why she can't do this, and tells me she is learning alongside her daughter. This is quite right - the words we meet as we read are not those that are required for getting through daily life, getting up and to school on time (ono) and running the house. Jean Chall's The Reading Crisis: Why Poor Children Fall behind remains a key text on the effects of this in the transition to secondary school. Highly educated parents have equipped their children with the words they need to understand their new textbooks, and parents without such education have not. The gap widens.
A project in Basildon led by Sir Michael Tomlinson, former HMCI, has tackled this issue at its root, by grouping children according to their learning needs from the start, and working with parents. It is due to publish soon. I've visited one of the schools involved, and will be happy to share information.