No shit Sherlock: privately educated still rising higher than anyone else

Survey finds out something we knew already shock. Here’s the latest no-shit-Sherlock discovery: the privately educated are still hugely over-represented in our national life.

If only there was someone easily to hand. You know, an example of a man propelled by little more than entitlement; a man who has connived his way to the top sitting on a cushion of privilege and a spot of posh-boy buffoonery.

Ah, yes. Boris Johnson. How had he slipped my mind like that?

Boris Johnson is shaped by a lifetime of privilege and the spoiled assumption he’s doing the world a favour. Haven’t we learned anything about prime ministers who went on that Eton and Oxford job creation scheme?

Look where David Cameron got us. And now Johnson is likely to follow his old schoolmate into Downing Street.

In Johnson’s case, that costly education left a smattering of cod Latin and a breezy confidence to make everything up on the hoof. Is that prime minister material?

Plenty of people worry Johnson is not up to the job, but this doesn’t alarm Brexit-blinkered Tory MPs, who see him as their saviour, even while holding their noses.

Perhaps they should listen to someone who knows him. Sir Max Hastings, former editor of the Daily Telegraph and Johnson’s onetime boss, writes in today’s Guardian that Johnson is “utterly unfit to be prime minister”. He admires Johnson as a “brilliant entertainer” but says he is unfit for office “because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification”.

But I am feeling Boris-ed out again.

Let’s return to that survey. The Elitist Britain 2019 survey by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission finds what it calls a “pipeline” from fee-paying schools through Oxbridge and into the top jobs.

The study reveals that members of Britain’s elite are five times more likely to have been to private school than the general populace.

And they’re five times more likely to hold the top jobs across the board: politics, the judiciary, media and business.

In these top jobs, 39% of people went to private school, a paying privilege available to only 7% of the general population. And seven shouldn’t go into 39 like that.

In a sense this isn’t surprising. After all, why would people shell out a fortune on educating their offspring unless it bought an advantage? That’s basically what they are paying for: the right for their children to rise higher in life.

This seems to be an insoluble problem for society. Without scrapping private education, there are two possible solutions.

ONE: Make state education so good that no one would want to spend money on going private (an aspiration undone by austerity).

TWO: Make it easier for state school pupils to get into Oxbridge (this is happening to an extent, but does it just elevate a few state school pupils to the same higher level of privilege?).

This old grammar schoolboy has spotted that private schools claim they save money for the country. The Independent Schools Council told The Times in April private schools saved the taxpayer £20bn a year. It seems creative accounting is now taught alongside Latin.

Is all this just envy – and, had life been different, would we have sent our three to private schools? I can’t swear we wouldn’t, but they’ve all turned out fine. And a fond memory is of our daughter being elated after her state school thrashed the posh girls at sport (netball, I think).

The survey found a preponderance of privately educated people in the media, with 44% of newspaper columnists having gone to fee-paying schools. That doesn’t make them bad columnists, but perhaps different sorts of columnists could be found (and not just old grammar schoolboys a bit on their uppers).

Political commentator Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer went to went to Rugby and Cambridge, and I don’t enjoy reading any less for that. He’s an acute, smart and interesting writer.

But the findings of this survey should still alarm anyone who thinks society should be fairer.

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