View all newsletters
Have the short, sharp Spear's newsletter delivered to your inbox each week
  1. Wealth
August 3, 2012

Private schools dominate sport, but the school system is only part of the problem

By Spear's

Another day, another media controversy, as dozens of largely private school educated journalists (yes, I’m one of them) are whipped up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation at how many private school people there are in the cabinet/parliament/judiciary/media/Team GB.

Another day, another media controversy, as dozens of largely private school educated journalists (yes, I’m one of them) are whipped up into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation at how many private school people there are in the cabinet/parliament/judiciary/media/Team GB.

Today the upset has been caused by the number of privately educated Olympic medallists. More than 50 per cent of Britain’s Olympic gold medallists in Beijing were privately educated, despite the fact that only 7 per cent of the population went to private school.

This is ‘wholly unacceptable’ Lord Moynihan, Chairman of the British Olympics Committee (also privately educated) has said. David Cameron has also spoken out to say that private schools produce ‘more than their fair share’ of winners. The Eton-educated prime minister, I barely need to add, heads a cabinet of school chums, two thirds of which went to private school.

This doesn’t mean their points are not valid, or that they should not make them, the whole farce goes to show how deep-rooted the problem is and why the latest shock statistic really ought not to shock.

Around 70 per cent of magic circle law firm partners were educated at public schools (defined as the top 250 schools in the country.) The vast majority of judges in the country were privately educated. Over half of journalists went to private schools. I could go on.

No doubt the overall consensus will be that only private schools have the kinds of facilities that world class sportsmen need to train from a young age. Parents are also more likely to have the money to support their child’s sporting ambitions, with extra tuition and expensive kit. This much is, quite frankly, obvious.

It’s interesting, but not unexpected, that football is one of the only sports where the balance of private school to state school players broadly reflects the general population at 7 per cent versus 93 per cent. Football, after all, is the one sport that virtually all school boys play regularly and are taught at school. Give state school pupils the same opportunities as private school ones, and they will shine too.

Content from our partners
Stoneweg, Icona, and CBH Strengthen Partnership with Cromwell Acquisition, Adding €4 Billion AUM to Stoneweg
Why investors should consider investing in nature
HSBC Global Private Banking: Revisiting your wealth plan as uncertainty abounds

Sport is just one of many areas of public life that reveal just how pitifully low social mobility is in the UK. It doesn’t only matter what school you went to, but how much your parents earn. I wonder how many Olympic athletes have parents who earn below the average national income, for instance?

The private school state school divide is just part of the explanation for why the biggest determinant of someone’s life chances is parental income. When researching a piece on early education I discovered that by the age of 2 children from the lowest income quintile are already falling behind their richer peers.

As long as parents are willing to pay thousands of pounds in the belief that it will improve their child’s life chances, it will simply not be possible to abolish private schools. And even if the UK did, this won’t suddenly solve our huge social mobility problem. A more important first step will be to improve our state education sector, and to reduce the financial barriers to young people participating in sport, enrolling in further education, or gaining work experience. 
 
 
Read more by Sophie McBain

[related_companies]

Select and enter your email address The short, sharp email newsletter from Spear’s
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network