British society more elitist than ever

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) Commission report “Elitist Britain?” presents analysis on the background of 4,000 leaders in politics, business, the media and other aspects of public life in the UK.

“This research highlights a dramatic over-representation of those educated at independent schools and Oxbridge across the institutions that have such a profound influence on what happens in our country. It suggests that Britain is deeply elitist”. Says The Rt. Hon.Alan Milburn, Chair of SMCP.

The SMCP research found that 65 per cent of people believe ‘who you know’ is more important than ‘what you know’, and three quarters of people think family background has a significant influence on life chances in Britain today. The relationship between parental background and a child’s future income is found to be much more significant in modern Britain than it is in many other counties.

SMCP 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.

In politics, half the House of Lords attended independent schools, along with 36% of the cabinet, 33% of MPs and 22% of the shadow cabinet. This compares with 7% of the UK population as a whole.

These findings are shocking in an age when everyone, whatever their background should be able to aspire to the same level of success as anyone else – one of the suggested actions that employers could take is to recruit people without knowing their university background – but the problems are much deeper than this and we need to start in schools – primary schools and earlier if we are to make any impact on social mobility. This is not something parents can do alone, what the report reveals is that these divisions are entrenched firmly in our society and it will take strong action by government and communities working together to address the deep seated underlying causes of poverty and to change this for the better.

The full report can be found on the SMCP website – Elitist Britain report SMCP


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