Friday, 5 September 2008

Excellent article on inequality of opportunity in the UK and the role of public schools

This excellent article by Johann Hari in yesterday's Independent is well worth a read if you are interested in trying to do something to make Britain a true meritocracy rather than be content with a system which allows people with more wealth to ensure far greater educational life chances for their children, irrespective of the child's ability.

I've had a couple of letters published in The Times on this issue in the past:

The Times

October 23, 2004, Saturday

'Social engineering' by universities

From Mr John Slinger


There have been shrill outbursts from the Russell Group of leading universities, Oxford University's Chancellor Chris Patten, Trinity College Oxford's Master Michael Beloff and others attacking the Government's intention to engage in what they term "social engineering". This "social engineering" intends to redress the imbalance in university admissions whereby, in the case of Oxbridge, approximately 10 per cent of the post-16 school population who attend independent schools account for nearly 50 per cent of the undergraduate population. Surely those who spend significant sums of money on an independent school education for their children, with the advantages including an increased chance of attending a leading university, are themselves engaged in blatant "social engineering". The NHS was created specifically to prevent the wealthy from leapfrogging their less fortunate neighbours in receiving the healthcare that each citizen needs, and in so doing "socially engineered" our country into an infinitely more civilised place. The Government should not feel afraid to apply similar principles with regard to a right that is arguably even more important.

Yours faithfully, JOHN SLINGER, Balham, SW12

The Times

November 28, 2007

Opportunity for all

We would condemn a country which turned someone away from A&E. What is so different about education?


In Britain it is possible to buy an education for your child, thereby increasing their chances of reaching a top university. This is possible either through the private school system (report, Nov 27) or by owning a house in the catchment area of a good state school.

This understandable parental instinct has hugely damaging repercussions for society, ensuring as it does that no government dares to treat access to educational opportunities in the same way as access to healthcare or the criminal justice system. We would rightly condemn a country which turned someone away from A&E or denied them a lawyer on the grounds that they couldn't pay. What is so different about education, which perhaps more than anything determines an individual's life chances?

John Slinger


  1. It would be better if we concentrated on improving state schools rather than becoming distracted by compensating for different standards!

  2. Let's ban privately educated students from any Russell Group University. OK, those universities might slump in the University Rankings and they'd have to ban virtually all overseas students as they are 90% privately educated, but at least we'd have a meritocracy.


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