Elitist UK locks out diversity at top
The UK is “deeply elitist” according to an analysis of the backgrounds of more than 4,000 business, political, media and public sector leaders.
Small elites, educated at independent schools and Oxbridge, still dominate top roles, suggests the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study.
HMC chairman Richard Harman, headmaster of Uppingham School, said that to suggest that a high number of people in positions of influence were there simply because they went to private schools was “lazy stereotyping and underestimates the diversity within the sector.Images
Chairman of the commission Alan Milburn said the UK’s top jobs remain “disproportionately held by people from a narrow range of backgrounds“.
“The institutions that matter appear to be a cosy club. We want the best people in the top jobs, the concern of this is the dominance they exercise. If there is one thing that unlocks this huge challenge for the country about the excessive dominance at the top it is the improvements in education.”
“Locking out a diversity of talents and experiences makes Britain’s leading institutions less informed, less representative and ultimately less credible than they should be,” warned Mr Milburn in his foreword to the report.
The commission says its findings are based on one of the most detailed analyses of its type ever undertaken.
It found that those who had attended fee-paying schools included:
- 71% of senior judges
- 62% of senior armed forces officers
- 55% of permanent secretaries (the most senior civil servants)
- 53% of senior diplomats.
Also privately educated were 45% of chairmen and women of public bodies, 44% of the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists and 26% of BBC executives. In sport, 35% of the England, Scotland and Wales rugby teams and 33% of the England cricket team also went to private schools.
The report calls for a national effort to “break open” Britain’s elite, with:
- employers publishing data on the social background of staff
- university-blind job applications and non-graduate entry routes
- the government tackling unpaid internships that disadvantage those too poor to work for nothing
- senior public sector jobs being opened up to a wider range of people.
Sir Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College in Berkshire, says every independent school should start an academy – something his school has overseen.
He said: “We need to be more radical than [Alan Milburn] is currently proposing.
“If we look more at those state schools that are doing very well, they are very heavily dominated by the middle classes.
“They are the grammar schools, they are the academies and comprehensives in strongly middle class areas.