Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Public Service

I read with fascination this article on the BBC News website

Oxbridge dominates list of leading UK people

By Hannah RichardsonBBC News education reporter

Eton College educated 330 people on the elite list

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A third of the UK's leading people went to Oxford or Cambridge universities and four out of every 10 of them attended private schools, a report suggests.

Ten top independent boys' schools alone produced 12% of the country's professional elite, it indicates.

The analysis of the backgrounds of nearly 8,000 people was carried out by charity the Sutton Trust.

Its chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said private schools should be open to all on the basis of ability not finance.

The educational trust, helped by an Institute of London researcher, looked at the backgrounds of 7,637 people educated in UK secondary schools who featured in the birthday lists of national and Sunday newspapers in 2011.

Out of these, some 31% went to Oxford or Cambridge and another 20% went to another leader university.

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Eton College - 330
Winchester - 92
Charterhouse School - 74
Rugby School - 71
Westminster School - 69
Marlborough College - 65
Dulwich College - 58
Harrow School - 57
St Paul's Boys' School - 57
Wellington College - 56

Overall some 44% of those on the list went to independent school, 27% to grammar school, 8% to a former direct grant school and 21% to comprehensives and other state schools.

And Eton College alone educated 330 leading people on the list - some 4% of the nation's elite.

The profession most dominated by Oxford and Cambridge graduates was the diplomatic service at 62%, followed by the law at 58% and the top echelons of the civil service at 55%.

Nearly half of the UK's top literary figures went to Oxford or Cambridge (48%) and 47% of those in financial services or the City.

The list features actors such as Jeremy Irons, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kate Winslet, all of whom were privately educated.

Who's Who

And it features broadcasters such as Tony Blackburn, Rory Bremner, Jeremy Clarkson and Jonathan Dimbleby, again all former independent school pupils.

The analysis follows a series of reports the Sutton Trust has published on school and university backgrounds of those in leading professions, including national news journalists, judges and MPs.

A recent study indicated independent schools made up 7% of school population yet had produced most leading news journalists, medics, chief executives and 70% of barristers and judges.

For this latest study the school and university backgrounds of leading people were obtained using a number of publicly available sources such as Who's Who, personal websites and by contacting them directly.

There are some absurdities in it...and I should declare an interest that both The Cat and The Boy are privately educated.

The first thing that struck me was Sir Peter declaring that private schools should be open on the basis of ability, not finance.  Perhaps he has mis-understood what a private school is.  But also worth noting is that I went to a private school under the direct grant scheme.  That means the state paid for my education.  I went there on the basis of ability, not finance.  It was the Government, and a Labour one at that, which stopped access to private education for the less well-off.

The second thing is that two occupations dominated by Oxbridge are the diplomatic service and the top echelons of the civil service.  So it is the state which is more biased than any other in favour of Oxbridge. I wonder what that says...if Government and the Civil Service wanted to make a difference they could.  They have chosen not to.

I know the arguments about (private) education are much broader but let's not get bogged down here, eh?