Monday, 17 May 2010

The private classes of the class of 2010 - so much for change!

There's been a lot of talk about change recently (most of it hot air). In one key respect, British society hasn't changed at all and the recent election proves the point. 

That is the dominance of private school-educated people in the highest echelons of society - the judiciary, professions such as the law and medicine, the armed forces...and YES, PARLIAMENT TOO. See this superb research by The Sutton Trust -  showing that even though private schools teach only 7% of the population, 35% of MPs received a private education. 54% of Tory MPs and 40% of Lib Dems were privately educated (15% for Labour). 

The dominance of Oxford and Cambridge is also troubling, given that these universities themselves are disproportionately dominated by private schools. 38% of Conservative MPs were educated at Oxford or Cambridge compared with 20% of Labour MPs and 28% of Liberal Democrat MPs. You might think that the new 2010 Parliament would a smaller proportion of privately-educated MPs. It was after all much trumpeted that the class of 2010 would be new brooms to sweep away the 'old politics'. Yet the proportion of 2010's newly-elected MPs who went to private school is 35% - exactly the same as for MPs who were re-elected to their posts. 

So much for change! You won't hear the Clegg or Cameron saying that they'd seek to end the institutionalised predominance in society of the children of better off people, even in the Parliament which is supposed to represent the whole of society. 

If we're serious about those buzz words that tripped out of both their mouths so frequently during the election campaign: "change", "fairness", "poverty", "opportunity", "renewal" and so-on, then we as a society must think about what these statistics say about our society in 2010. Before people say "it's the fault of poor teaching state schools" this is untrue and unfair. It is largely the result of the continuance of the structures that create inequality of opportunity in the education system. Put simply, in the UK, if you have money, you can improve the chances of your children. This is not fair and and means that Britain fails to offer the best opportunities to countless thousands of our young people.  But then people in positions of power and influence often do not like change, particularly when it threatens their privileged position in society.

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