Former private school pupils 'dominate Britain's top jobs'

Pupils at Eton College Credit: PA/David Parker

Britons who went to private school are more likely to work in top professions as opposed to the general population, new research has found.

While just seven per cent of Britons are privately educated, research found that former fee paying pupils make up 39 per cent of those in leading professions, data from the Sutton Trust has found.

The report, published with the Social Mobility Commission, also shows those who went to fee-paying schools have a clearer path to go onto Oxbridge.

Graphic which shows the proportion of the privately educated in public sector jobs, in comparison to the general population. Credit: PA Graphics
  • What does the data show?

Researchers examined the educational background of more than 5,000 of the country's leading people in 37 broad categories, including politics, business, the media, civil servants, creative industries, women and sport.

From the data collected, the women are underrepresented in all of the key areas examined.

Those females who do make it to the top are less likely to have attended Oxbridge than their male counterparts.

This includes the judiciary, where they are 25 per cent less likely than men in the same position, and the House of Lords, where they are 21 per cent less likely.

At the time of analysis in spring 2019, 39 per cent of Theresa May's Cabinet was privately educated. This is in comparison to the shadow cabinet, where just nine per cent was privately educated.

Of the 37 categories looked at, men and women's football were the only professions where those who were privately educated are underrepresented.

  • Which professions do the privately educated dominate the most?

Across many public bodies, a vast amount of boards consists of private school alumni.

Some of the professions which most heavily dominated by the privately educated include senior judges (65 per cent), civil servant permanent secretaries (59 per cent), House of Lords (57 per cent), and Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomats (52 per cent).

The judiciary is heavily dominated by people who attended fee paying schools. Credit: PA

Compared to the national average of seven per cent of Britons who had gone to private school, the media also contains a disproportionate amount of fee-paying alumni.

Of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters, 43 per cent were privately educated, while 44 per cent of newspaper columnists went to fee-paying schools.

  • Do the privately educated dominate sports as well?

While the privately educated are underrepresented in men and women's football, many sports still have a higher number of fee-paying alumni in comparison to the general population.

The England cricket team and rugby internationals were 43 per cent and 37 per cent privately educated respectively - a huge disparity between the seven per cent of the general population in Britain.

Women’s teams showed similar patterns to their male counterparts in terms of school background, but around 80 per cent of female internationals across football, cricket and rugby attended university, compared to a very small number of men.

The percentage of privately educated people in sports, compared to the national average. Credit: PA Graphics
  • What does the report recommend?

The Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission make a number of recommendations in the report to ensure the talents of people from all backgrounds are made use of.

These include tackling financial barriers to specific industries and professions, especially by paying internships of significant length, and adopting contextual recruitment and admissions practices.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Britain is an increasingly divided society.

“Divided by politics, by class, by geography. Social mobility, the potential for those to achieve success regardless of their background, remains low. “

“The key to improving social mobility at the top is to tackle financial barriers, adopt contextual recruitment and admissions practices and tackle social segregation in schools.

“In addition, we should open up independent day schools to all pupils based on merit not money as demonstrated by our successful Open Access scheme.”

Dr Luke Heselwood, from think tank Reform, said: “These scandalous figures show that the UK is far from being a meritocracy.

“Fixing this will require serious reform to the education system as, despite improvements, the most advantaged are nearly 10 times more likely to attend elite universities than the most disadvantaged.

“If candidates vying to become prime minister are serious about giving equal opportunity to all, they must focus on raising the attainment of disadvantaged school pupils so they can apply to elite universities."