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Public school and Oxbridge types still running ‘elitist’ Britain, study says

Public school and Oxbridge types still running ‘elitist’ Britain, study says

🕔28.Aug 2014

Almost half a century has passed since the great Peter Cook played the role of a coal miner who complained that what he had really wanted to be in life was a judge, “but I never had the Latin for judgin’”.

The message behind the Beyond the Fringe sketch was clear enough: for all of the talk in the swinging sixties about a meritocracy, Britain was still in the grip of an elitist public school-educated establishment.

Roll the clock on 50 years and ask how much has changed?

Not much, according to research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, whose latest report – Elitist Britain – details the huge over-representation in parliament, boardrooms, the media and other institutions of the well-heeled and privately educated.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/347915/Elitist_Britain_-_Final.pdf

The statistics are astonishing: 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of Permanent  Secretaries, 53 per cent of senior diplomats, 50 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 45 per cent of  public body chairs, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists, 36 per cent of the Cabinet, 35 per cent of the national rugby team, 33 per cent of MPs, 33 per cent of the England cricket team, 26 per cent of BBC executives and 22 per cent of the Shadow Cabinet attended independent  schools – compared to seven per cent of the public as a whole.

There’s an even starker contrast when the matter of getting to Oxbridge is concerned.

Less than one per cent of school leavers in this country go on to Oxford or Cambridge. The percentage for senior judges is 75, while 59 per cent of the Cabinet, 57 per cent of Permanent Secretaries, 50 per cent  of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of  members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of the Shadow Cabinet and 24 per  cent of MPs went to Oxbridge.

Attending an independent school clearly gives young people an advantage. Some seven per cent of children in this country are privately educated, against 88 per cent at comprehensive schools.

A third of MPs went to independent schools, 24 per cent were at Oxbridge and 54 per cent attended the elite Russell Group of universities.

And it would be wise to dispel the myth that elitism is found solely in the Conservative Party.

Twenty per cent of the current crop of Labour MPs was privately educated, while almost a quarter of the shadow cabinet attended independent schools. Some 41 per cent of Liberal Democrat MPs went to independent schools, not far short of the 52 per cent score for Tory MPs.

A third of Conservatives, a fifth of Labour MPs and a quarter of Liberal Democrats were at Oxbridge.

The proportion of privately educated MPs has fallen gradually since the 1950s, largely due to an increase in the numbers of state-educated Tory and Liberal MPs. Intriguingly, the percentage of private school Labour MPs has remained around the 20 per cent mark since 1951.

The top end of the British media is still dominated by public schools, according to the research.

More than two in five (43%) of newspaper columnists were educated privately while 54 per cent of the UK’s top media professionals – editors, columnists and broadcasters – attended independent schools.

Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister, who now chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said the new research examined the backgrounds of 4,000 leaders in politics, the media, business and other aspects of public life.

Mr Milburn said: “This research highlights a dramatic over-representation of those educated at independent schools and Oxbridge across the institutions that have such a profound influence on what happens in our country. It suggests that Britain is deeply elitist.

“Locking out a diversity of talents and experiences makes Britain’s leading institutions less informed, less representative and, ultimately, less credible than they should be.

“Our research shows it is entirely possible for politicians to rely on advisers to advise, civil servants to devise policy solutions and journalists to report on their actions having all studied the same courses at the same universities, having read the same books, heard the same lectures and even being taught by the same tutors.”

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