Report hits out at elitism

By Andrew Grice

Former Foreign Secretary who is now leader of the House of Commons, William Hague. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Former Foreign Secretary who is now leader of the House of Commons, William Hague. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A "cosy club" of people educated at private schools and Oxbridge still dominates British politics, the judiciary and media and locks out talented people from more modest backgrounds, according to government advisers.

In a hard-hitting report, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission called for class to be given as much priority as gender and ethnicity in a "national mission" to break open an elite "formed on the playing fields of independent schools" and "finished in Oxbridge's dreaming spires".

Its research into the background of more than 4000 people who run Britain found that small elites are dramatically over-represented. Seventy-one per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of Whitehall permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of House of Lords members and 36 per cent of the Cabinet were privately educated.

Labour accused Prime Minister David Cameron's Government of standing up for "a privileged few".

However, 22 per cent of Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet also went to private schools, three times as many as in the population as a whole.

In 2012, only 25 of the 600-plus recruits to the civil service "fast stream" had working-class backgrounds. One in seven judges went to five independent schools - Eton, Westminster, Radley, Charterhouse or St Paul's Boys.

The commission's proposals include:

• The Government opening up top public sector jobs to a much wider pool.

• Employers to end unpaid internships and bring in "university-blind" applications.

• Universities to use "contextual admissions" to take account of an applicant's background.

• Schools to redouble efforts to close the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.

- Independent

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