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Britain's most influential people over five times more likely to be privately educated, study finds

The Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission's Elitist Britain 2019 report reveals the ‘pipeline’ from fee-paying schools through Oxbridge and into top jobs

SOCIAL mobility is being restricted by the vast likelihood that former private school pupils will take top jobs, a new report states today.

Britain’s most influential people are over five times more likely to have attended a private school, according to a survey of 5,000 politicians, CEOs, A-list celebrities, journalists, musicians, judges and other high-ranking figures.

Just 7 per cent of the general population were privately educated and only 1 per cent graduated from Oxbridge.

But the report suggests that 39 per cent of those considered to be in positions of high power attended a fee-paying school.

The figures come from the Elitist Britain 2019 report by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission. It reveals that there is a “pipeline” from fee-paying schools through Oxbridge and into top jobs.

Senior judges were the most likely to follow this pathway at 52 per cent while the average is 17 per cent across all top jobs.

Women are still under-represented in all of the professions surveyed. Those who do get the top occupations are less likely to have attended Oxbridge than their male counterparts.

The report suggests that women in the judiciary are 25 per cent less likely to have gone to Oxbridge than their male counterparts. They are 21 per cent less likely to have done so than their male counterparts in the House of Lords.

The report shows Labour’s front bench in stark contrast to that of the Tories. Some 39 per cent of the Cabinet are privately educated compared with just 7 per cent of the shadow cabinet.

Of all 37 professions surveyed the privately educated were only under-represented among male and female footballers.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, pointed out that private schools give pupils a huge head-start in developing career-essential soft skills such as “confidence, articulacy and team work,” as well as academic achievement.

He suggested that fee-paying schools should open their admissions to all pupils based on merit rather than money.

Social Mobility Commission chairwoman Dame Martina Milburn said: “It is time to close the power gap and ensure that those at the top can relate to and represent ordinary people.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “For too long our top professions have been a closed club dominated by a wealthy and privileged elite who attended the same private schools.

“The old boys’ network and the old school tie still hold back talented and hard-working people from less privileged backgrounds.

“Under the Tories the privileged remain privileged while people from working-class backgrounds are denied opportunities to get on.

“The next Labour government will create a new social justice commission and appoint a new minister for social justice to build a country in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of their background.”

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said that it was “simply unacceptable” that the biggest indicator of future success in obtaining a high-ranking job is the school or university attended and the wealth of the parents.

Mr Courtney said that other “alarming” evidence of growing inequality shows the working class being held back by what UN special rapporteur on poverty Philip Alston condemned as “systematic” and “tragic” poverty through austerity.

The NEU has also published findings today that show 8,587 children and young people with special educational needs and disability are currently “awaiting provision” for a school place.

This is significantly higher than previously known and means they have no access to any type of educational provision at all.


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