Social mobility, education, and the European convention on human rights

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This article argues that the problem of Britain’s social immobility could be challenged under the European Convention on Human Rights. In doing so, it suggests that the most tangible expression of this is Britain’s ‘segregated’ education system of state and private education, which produces wide disparities in outcomes that stand alone by international comparisons. Then it frames the education system in the legal setting of the Right to Education per se, and without discrimination, provided by the European Convention on Human Rights, and informed by the European Social Charter and the UN International Covenant of Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights. For this purpose it explores this state of affairs in relation to current Western values of freedom of choice, plurality in education, a competitive market economy, notions of meritocracy and, of course, social mobility. The article concludes that the state is obliged to provide education without discrimination, and that the freedoms favouring private education do not outweigh the damage it does to the life chances of the vast majority of Britain’s children, the competitive market economy, and the related goals of social mobility and meritocracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-165
JournalEuropean Human Rights Law Review
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Discrimination
  • Education
  • Justification
  • Right to education
  • Social justice
  • Socio-legal studies
  • United States


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