Privately educated five times more likely to get top jobs

Britain’s most influential people are over five times more likely to have been to a fee-paying school than the general population. Just seven per cent of Brits are privately educated, compared to two-fifths (39 per cent) of those in top positions.

The Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission's report Elitist Britain 2019 looks at the educational backgrounds of leading figures across nine areas: politics, business, the media, Whitehall and public bodies, public servants, local government, the creative industries, women and sport.

The research finds that power rests with a narrow section of the population: the 7 per cent who attend private schools and the 1 per cent who graduate from Oxford and Cambridge. 

The report is calling for social segregation in schools to be tackled through fairer admissions practices in comprehensives and grammars and opening up private schools.

52 per cent of the leading figures in some professions (senior judges) came through fee-paying schools through Oxbridge and into their jobs, with an average of 17 per cent across all top jobs going that route.

39 per cent of the cabinet, at the time of this analysis in spring 2019, was independently educated. This is in contrast with the shadow cabinet, of which just 9 per cent attended a private school.

There is a majority of private school alumni across various public bodies: Senior judges (65 per cent); Civil service permanent secretaries (59 per cent); The House of Lords (57 per cent); Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomats (52 per cent).

The media also has some of the highest numbers of the privately educated. Of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters, 43 per cent went to fee-paying schools. Similarly, 44 per cent of newspaper columnists were privately educated, and a third (33 per cent) went to both an independent school and Oxbridge.
Women are under-represented at the top of all top professions. However, for women who do make it to the top, their journeys do not always look the same as those of their male peers.  While women in top roles are still much more likely to have attended a private school than the population at large, they are less likely to have attended Oxbridge than their male counterparts.    
Among the wealthiest members of the TV, film and music industries, there are substantial numbers of independent school attendees, at 38 per cent. Best-selling popstars are 30 per cent privately educated, less than top actors who are 44 per cent privately educated.
Across the 37 categories in the nine broad areas surveyed in the report, only among men and women’s footballers were the privately educated under-represented.
The report includes several recommendations to improve social diversity through the education system and employment practices. This includes tackling financial barriers to specific industries and professions, especially by paying internships of significant length; adopting contextual recruitment and admissions practices to enter top universities and industries; and tackling social segregation in schools through fairer admissions practices in comprehensives and grammars and opening up private schools.


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