• Privately educated people still ‘dominate’ top jobs, finds research

  • 24 Feb 2016
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Independent schools offer better professional social networks and job-ready skills

A private education and an affluent background are still instrumental factors in getting employees to the top of their profession, according to a report by the Sutton Trust.

The organisation, which promotes social mobility, found that while the comprehensive system educates 88 per cent of the UK population today, 74 per cent of top judges attended independent schools; and some 61 per cent of top doctors, and 51 per cent of leading print journalists were educated privately.

In politics, 32 per cent of MPs were privately educated, while 34 per cent of UK educated FTSE 100 chief executives went to private school.

The Leading People 2016 report, which looks at the educational backgrounds of leading figures in 10 professions: the military, medicine, politics, civil service, journalism, business, law, music, film and Nobel Prize winners, is published ahead of the launch of an all-party parliamentary group inquiry into how to improve social mobility across the country.

The trust has called for greater transparency around diversity, including pay gaps associated with both gender and education, and recruitment practices.

It urged employers to pay interns the national living wage after four weeks and the government to provide more support for gifted children in the state sector.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, an off-shoot of the trust which aims to improve educational outcomes for children in low-income families, said: “As well as academic achievement an independent education tends to develop essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and team work which are vital to career success.”

However, according to Dr Philip Kirby, research fellow at the Sutton Trust, a private education is not the only factor in helping individuals to reach the top of organisations; home support and professional contacts are also key: “Young people from more advantaged backgrounds also often have broader professional social networks, which can be used to access certain jobs, as well as parents who might be more able to support them through unpaid internships, which are increasingly important for career development,” he said.

The trust published the report ahead of the BRITs, the UK’s annual pop music awards, after research revealed that top award-winning British actors were over twice as likely to have had a private education, compared to those in the music industry.

While just 7 per cent of the general population are privately educated, 42 per cent of top BAFTA winners attended an independent school, compared to 19 per cent of BRIT award winners.

The greater success of state-educated music stars, may be in part due to the success of the Brit school, in Croydon, which is free to attend. Alumni of the school includes Adele, Imogen Heap, Jessie J and others. However, there are concerns about the impact that arts funding cuts may have on the school and its affect on social mobility in the music industry.

Read People Management’s feature on social mobility in the March issue of the magazine

Social mobility: why class still counts at work

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  • in a world where the fees of private schools outrageously increase every year.

    what do you think the options are for parents who want to prepare their children to have leading positions in the public or the private sectors ?