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  1. Wealth
November 20, 2012

Sutton Trust: 12 Per Cent of British Elite Came from Just 10 Schools

By Spear's

12 per cent of those on The Times birthday lists from politicians, to policemen, diplomats and pop stars came from just ten independent schools. You can probably guess which ones.

To celebrate its fifteenth birthday, Sutton Trust, an organisation set up to improve social mobility. has published its survey of the educational backgrounds of the 7637 people who appear in The Times birthday lists. It contains few surprises — we all know that the alumni of just a handful of schools and universities dominate public life — and yet, in another sense, the figures are shocking.

12 per cent of the leading public figures who appear on birthday lists — from politicians, to policemen, diplomats and pop stars — came from just ten independent schools. You can probably guess them: Eton, Winchester, Charterhouse, Rugby, Westminster, Malborough, Dulwich, Harrow, St Paul’s Boys, Wellington.

There’s a breakdown by profession too, helpfully provided by The Times here. The highest proportion of independent school alumni are found among the ‘public service’ with 68 per cent having attended a private school — but at this includes royalty, it’s a little less surprising.

The lowest proportion of private school pupils are found in the police (13 per cent) and pop music (19 per cent.) Nevertheless, as only 7 per cent of the population attend private schools, this still means that independent schools are considerably over-represented in these fields too.

David Cameron and George Osborne share a joke together. 37 per cent of politicians on the Times’ birthday list are privately educated.

One word of caution though, as this poll measures people who have achieved the very top of their field, this doesn’t necessarily reflect the make-up of the whole sector — it could well be that younger, less-established civil servants, politicians, teachers and lawyers reflect a broader range of backgrounds. That said, it’s likely that the privately educated are still over-represented in these lower tiers too.  

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It’s become fashionable for the parents of privately educated children to fret that their privileged offspring will be discriminated against when it comes to university places or jobs because those from less privileged backgrounds are considered more deserving. These statistics should still show that a private school education still really does set you up for life.

Take a broader perspective though, and the trend is deeply worrying indeed. With inequality reaching Victorian levels in the UK, this lack of social mobility — and the social divisions it can produce — is a big concern for all of us. 
Read more by Sophie McBain

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