Appendix A

Questions to use to measure socio-economic background

Question 1

Which type of school did you attend for the most time between the ages of 11 and 16?


  • A state-run or state-funded school
  • Independent or fee-paying school
  • Attended school outside the UK
  • I don’t know
  • Prefer not to say

Question 2

If you finished school after 1980, were you eligible for free school meals at any point during your school years?

Free school meals are available to school-aged children from families who receive other qualifying benefits and who have been through the relevant registration process. It does not include those who receive meals at school through other means (e.g. boarding school).


  • Yes
  • No
  • Not applicable (finished school before 1980 or went to school overseas)
  • I don’t know
  • Prefer not to say

Question 3

What is the highest level of qualification achieved by either of your parent(s) or guardian(s) by the time you were 18?


  • Above degree level (e.g. MA, MSc, MPhil, PhD)
  • Degree or equivalent (e.g. first or higher degrees, postgraduate diplomas, NVQ/SVQ Level 4 or 5
  • Below degree level (e.g. A level, SCE Higher, GCSE, O level, SCE Standard/Ordinary, NVQ/SVQ, BTEC)
  • No qualifications
  • I don’t know
  • Prefer not to say
  • Not applicable

In relation to the question below, the Office for National Statistics’ guidance on the derivation of NS-SEC from the four questions on parental occupation is available here.
Note that the age of 14 is specified in this question since research highlights that parental occupation at this age is the strongest predictor of adult outcomes.

Question 4a

Please tell us about the occupation of your main household earner when you were aged 14.


  • Modern professional occupations such as: teacher, nurse, physiotherapist, social worker, musician, police officer (sergeant or above), software designer.
  • Clerical and intermediate occupations such as: secretary, personal assistant, clerical worker, call centre agent, nursery nurse.
  • Senior managers or administrators (usually responsible for planning, organising and co-ordinating work, and for finance) such as: finance manager, chief executive.
  • Technical and craft occupations such as: motor mechanic, plumber, printer, electrician, gardener, train driver.
  • Semi-routine manual and service occupations such as: postal worker, machine operative, security guard, caretaker, farm worker, catering assistant, sales assistant.
  • Routine manual and service occupations such as: HGV driver, cleaner, porter, packer, labourer, waiter/waitress, bar staff.
  • Middle or junior managers such as: office manager, retail manager, bank manager, restaurant manager, warehouse manager.
  • Traditional professional occupations such as: accountant, solicitor, medical practitioner, scientist, civil / mechanical engineer.
  • Long-term unemployed (claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or earlier unemployment benefit for more than a year)
  • Retired
  • This question does not apply to me
  • I don’t know
  • I prefer not to say

Question 4b

At age 14, did the main household earner in your house work as an employee or were they self-employed?


  • Employee
  • Self-employed with employees
  • Self-employed/freelance without employees (go to question 4d)
  • Not working
  • I don’t know
  • Prefer not to answer questions about parental occupation (skip remaining questions)

Question 4c

Where 4b is employee:
How many people worked for your main household earner’s employer at this time?
Where 4b is self-employed with employees:
How many people did your main household earner employ at this time? Move to question 4d when you have completed this question.


  • 1 to 24
  • 25+
  • I don’t know

Question 4d

Did they supervise employees?


  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

Appendix B

Key terms

Socio-economic background

‘Socio-economic background’ is the term to refer to the particular set of social and economic circumstances that an individual has come from. It permits objective discussion of the influence of these circumstances on individuals’ educational and career trajectories; and it can be objectively measured by capturing information on parental occupation and level of education.

Social class

Class can be a loaded term. Class encompasses a range of socio-cultural and geographical factors. Objective measures of assessing family income may not necessarily match up with individuals’ perceptions of their social class status, and individuals may feel less comfortable talking about social class. However, class can invoke a range of tacit assumptions and practices, from how to dress and talk to food choices and hobbies, and using it can expose the negative ways that these assumptions affect attitudes and behaviours. In this toolkit, we use the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification groupings.
Those from ‘professional’ backgrounds are from managerial and professional backgrounds. Examples include: CEOs, senior police officers, doctors, journalists, barristers, solicitors, teachers and nurses. Those from ‘working class’ backgrounds are from routine and manual occupations. Examples include: receptionists, electricians, plumbers, butchers and van drivers.

Social mobility

Social mobility is the link between an individual’s income and occupation and the income and occupation of their parents. It is about where people end up in comparison to their parents or relative to their peers. It is widely adopted as a way of describing the importance of creating opportunities for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds to enable them to become more economically successful.


This term captures the importance of recognising and valuing difference among individuals, along the lines of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, age, and disability, for example. It generally refers to increasing the representation of groups that are under-represented in organisations. It must however be understood alongside ‘inclusion’. Diversity in and of itself does not result in an inclusive environment.


This is the meaningful achievement of diversity. This involves creating the conditions to ensure individuals from diverse backgrounds are valued and treated equally, feel empowered and are able to progress.


Individuals do not experience their diversity characteristics in isolation: these characteristics overlap and collide to compound the experience of inequality. For example, patterns of progression in the firm will vary not only by gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background, but by combinations of all three. Policy and practice need to recognise the convergence of factors and respond accordingly.

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