For poor children, lunch is a rushed butty. For the rich, it’s orchestra and standup

There was justifiable outrage recently when the headteacher of £12,000-a-term Stowe School complained that “social engineering” meant Oxford and Cambridge universities were taking fewer kids from private schools. The Guardian reports.

Schools are social engineering factories; it’s what they are supposed to do. They take children and batch-improve them so they are ready to join society as adults. And as we all know, it is state school pupils who usually battle against the well-oiled social engineering of the rich.

A new example of this arose recently in research from the UCL Institute of Education, which found breaks and lunchtimes in England have been cutsince the 1990s, with secondary schools shaving off more than an hour a week. One in four has a lunch break of just 35 minutes, barely enough time to down a butty and a Capri Sun. And forget afternoon breaks – just 1% of secondary and 15% of junior schools indulge in such luxury.

Meanwhile, at St Paul’s, a top private feeder school for Oxbridge, students enjoy a 100-minute lunch in which they can partake in activities such as sports, debating, and – I kid you not – “magic, film-making and standup comedy”.

A recent survey of 3,500 teachers found that schools with high numbers of pupils on free meals – a key poverty indicator – were by far the most likely to have a lunch of 30 minutes or less. Meanwhile, schools in wealthy areas commonly still had lunchtimes of 45 minutes or more.

So along with all the other inequalities that go with poverty – from lower height to lower academic grades – we’ve added another one. Poor kids get fewer breaks.

The ability of private schools to pump their pupils with extra-curricular lunch activities makes a difference in higher education access. The British Phonographic Industry recently found that 85% of private schools have orchestras, as opposed to just 12% of schools in disadvantaged areas. Choirs are similarly imbalanced. Which two scholarship types are abundant at Oxbridge? Choral and music ones. If that’s not social engineering, I don’t know what is.

Read the full article For poor children, lunch is a rushed butty. For the rich, it’s orchestra and standup 

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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