Privately educated elite continues to take top jobs

The Guardian is reporting new research that suggests a “privately educated elite” continues to dominate the UK’s leading professions, taking top jobs in fields as diverse as the law, politics, medicine and journalism.

The Sutton Trust educational charity has been carrying out similar surveys for more than a decade, and though it reports “small signs” of progress, this year’s results confirm what has long been known – that if you have a private education, you are considerably more likely to get to the top of British public life.

Although just 7% of the population attend independent fee-paying schools, the survey reveals that almost three quarters (71%) of top military officers were educated privately, with 12% having been taught in comprehensive schools.

In the field of law, 74% of top judges working in the high court and appeals court were privately educated, while in journalism, more than half (51%) of leading print journalists went to independent schools, with one in five having attended comprehensive schools, which currently educate 88% of the population.

In medicine, meanwhile, Sutton Trust research says 61% of the country’s top doctors were educated at independent schools; nearly a quarter (22%) went to grammar school and the remainder to comprehensives.

In politics, the picture is a little better, with under a third (32%) of MPs having been privately educated, though that figure goes up to half of the cabinet, compared with 13% of the shadow cabinet…

The report welcomes a new focus on diversity and professional access, especially in the legal profession and the civil service, and says there are small signs that things may be “slowly changing in certain fields”…

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust, said: “Our research shows that your chances of reaching the top in so many areas of British life are very much greater if you went to an independent school.

“As well as academic achievement, an independent education tends to develop essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and teamwork, which are vital to career success.

“The key to improving social mobility at the top is to open up independent schools to all pupils based on merit not money … as well as support for highly able students in state schools…”

More at: Privately educated elite continues to take top jobs, finds survey


Read or download the report in full:

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Read more directly from the Sutton Trust at: Best of British: Britain’s got talent, but are we recognising all of it?


These figures look really stark when you look at the differences between those privately educated and those who went to comprehensive schools (so leaving aside the grammar school sector).

The Sutton Trust says there are signs of improvement but how do you react to their latest figures and the picture they paint?

And what of the routes they propose to changing the situation?

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


Ex-public school elite still dominates top jobs - will it be different when today’s children have grown up?

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  1. KarlPCaslin

    cherrylkd SchoolsImprove I believe much of their success is not quality of education but links with imp people, families&institutions.

  2. ajjolley

    KarlPCaslin cherrylkd SchoolsImprove fees enable schools to buy information on likely exam content, they push for extra time & remarks

  3. ajjolley

    KarlPCaslin cherrylkd SchoolsImprove but having the right accent, right social group, the same shared experiences will get you everywhere

  4. People in ‘top’ jobs tend to favour those like themselves: privately educated, male, white.  Accompanying that is often a sense of entitlement and superiority.

  5. ajjolley

    cherrylkd KarlPCaslin SchoolsImprove I know a school that tests all children for dispraxia & dislexia for that v reason

  6. ajjolley

    cherrylkd KarlPCaslin SchoolsImprove once you have a diagnosis, even borderline, you can apply for extra time
    It all helps

  7. TW

    Tosh.  Rich people send their children to some private schools so they can get to know each other (or know each other better) and then the parents help each others children to take the jobs they want.

  8. F62Forbes

    SchoolsImprove Most independent schools raise money and award scholarships to prep school kids not able state school kids.

  9. cia262

    Nor_edu SchoolsImprove Independent schools already have thriving partnerships with state schools. Let’s celebrate successes of former.

  10. Nor_edu

    cia262 SchoolsImprove Not the point – it’s more about success of students of Ind schools does not *just* reflect quality of schooling

  11. clivetaylor915

    Looking at the performance of successive cohorts of our betters it says little for the “educational elite”
    Au contraire!

  12. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This is always portrayed as a negative thing; whilst some may not deserve to be in their position, most will do

  13. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Whilst many will shout about nepotism maybe people have got to their professional positions on merit & could be learned from

Let us know what you think...