In his latest post, Steve Spriggs discusses the world of work and the education system…
Sometimes when I’m buying clothes, I don’t always bother trying things on. But when I get home, I find the item I bought in one shop fits me perfectly and the one I bought in the other doesn’t. They have the same size printed on the label so why aren’t they equal?
It’s a question I’ve been considering since I heard the former Education Secretary Justine Greening’s speech at a summit about social mobility organised by the Sutton Trust in New York. In it she encouraged employers to look beyond someone’s qualifications and consider their background and schooling. She added that ‘if you get three Bs from Eton, you’re probably not as impressive as somebody who gets three Bs from the school in a part of the country where the school [wasn’t] doing well.’
I see where she’s coming from but I completely disagree. Yes, the pupil from the state school in a deprived town probably slogged away harder than the Eton boy to achieve their grades and to win a place at university – especially if the parents never went on to higher education, there was no extra tuition, they maybe held down a Saturday job and they weren’t part of character-building communities such as Guides or Scouts. Leaving school with good qualifications when you aren’t afforded many privileges is undoubtedly impressive.
However, five years down the line when both people enter the world of work – even if they both left uni with the same level of degree – the Eton education will stand out. Greening (who is state-school educated) referenced Eton as it’s the headline-grabbing school attended by royals and prime ministers. Yet I think she means all top-level independent schools. All are united by one thing: their all-round approach to education. Not just academic but also the extra-curricular activities; by allowing children to pursue their passions, be it music or sports and introducing them to opportunities and skills they might not have considered before, such as debating or drama.
These schools have the resources to fund foreign trips and the pupils will sit among peers, not just from their neighbourhood, but from other countries, which allows them to learn about and absorb other cultures. It’s an oft-repeated saying, but private school pupils are ‘well-rounded’; they display leadership qualities and are confident meeting a range of people and ages.
Just like clothes sizes, the schooling system and the world of work aren’t entirely equal. And while many employers may select the ex-private school pupil, there are many very successful businesses where the CEO has no qualifications and started the company in a back bedroom while at school. A private education may not always go in your favour and in the same way as Eton opens doors it can also have them slammed in your face if the self-made success story doesn’t fancy working with a posho.
Greening encourages employers to stop fishing in a ‘talent puddle’ and start recruiting from a ‘talent pool’ but I can’t see her comments making a splash right now. I do realise there is an imbalance and unfairness when it comes to recruiting people for high-salaried jobs but for many employers, the qualifications are the last thing they look for when they’re in the interview room. Often they scan the CV to see where they went to school.
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