Only 7% of people in the UK went to fee-paying schools, but they dominate all the top jobs which are central to the running of the state. 71% of top judges, 62% senior armed forces officers and 55% and the highest ranking civil servants.
A report by the not-left-wing academic government policy unit, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (28 August) says advantage is bought via the top fee-paying schools which fast track children into the top universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge.
Those institutions not only offer a better resourced education, but help create a sense of superiority and entitlement and networks that lead to the top jobs.
Drill down into the data and there’s more.
The report shows that only 44% of the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain were privately educated. But 26% were educated abroad. Only 13% went to comprehensive school compared to 88% of the population of the UK.
More attended selective grammar schools. Selection is far better at stratifying 11 year olds by social class than by how well they are capable of performing at 18.
Of judges 6% went to comprehensives, senior army officers 7%, top diplomats 11%, the chief executives of the biggest companies 14%, top civil servants 16% and top media professionals 16%.
One could go further and ask to which comprehensive schools the 6%-to-16% of the elite go. Not all comprehensive schools are equal. Some comprehensives have a catchment of leafy streets of utterly unaffordable Victorian villas by a backdoor selection such as those by religious attendance. These are clearly not the same as most people’s local comprehensive.
Those with a degree from Oxford or Cambridge are just 0.8% of the population and just 2.5% of university graduates. But 75% of top judges, 59% of members of the cabinet, and 57% of civil servants attended an Oxford or Cambridge college.
Previous research has shown that privately educated students, around 40% of Oxford and Cambridge students, gain access to elite universities with lower grades than those from state schools.
More than half of all state schools send only 6% of A level students to elite universities.
Of course, creating greater social mobility will not end class society. Rather, it would allow those who have been lucky in the lottery of environmental and genetic endowment to access the lower echelons of the ruling elite.
It might even invigorate and legitimate the existence of that elite.