Schools should broaden their scope from focussing on exam results and teach character skills, according to a cross-parliamentary group.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility has published a report entitled The Character and Resilience Manifesto, in which it claims those in education jobs should focus on developing pupils' "character and resilience".
This would help to promote social mobility in the UK, the report claims. Closing the opportunity gap is not merely a matter of academic achievement, it alleges; it is also a matter of a person's self-perception.
It argues that social mobility is linked to social and emotional skills and the importance of such skills is now much greater than it was a few decades ago.
Rather than being mere "exam factories", schools should nurture youngsters' self-belief, perseverance and ability to recover from set-backs.
Such qualities, it argues, are essential both in education and in the labour market later in life - so-called "soft skills" are increasingly valuable to employers.
Upon leaving school, pupils would be given a "school leaving certificate" documenting a child's achievement in a range of activities, rather than just academic work.
Participation in extracurricular activities is one of the main ways in which pupils' characters can be developed. The report calls for participation in such activities to be made a formal part of teachers' employment contracts and for them to be made part of Ofsted's inspection framework.
The report also recommends extending the pupil premium - extra funding for disadvantaged children - into pre-school education. In addition, private schools should share their expertise and their facilities with state schools.
Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler said: "Character and resilience are major factors in social mobility but are often overlooked in favour of things which are more tangible and easier to measure.
"We believe Britain needs a 'national conversation' about the role that developing character and resilience can play in narrowing the unacceptably wide gap in life chances between children from different backgrounds."
Posted by Harriet McGowan