You have to admire the Sutton Trust’s PR skills. For those who don’t know, the Sutton Trust is a social mobility thinktank that is constantly drawing attention to just how unmeritocratic contemporary Britain is. Every time it produces a report about the dominance of the privately educated Oxbridge elite, the media slavishly regurgitates it, even though the Trust has been churning out essentially the same report every year since it was founded in 1993, and even though, according to the Trust, 40 per cent of people in the media went to independent schools and 39 per cent to Oxbridge. You’d think the stubborn survival of the English class system wouldn’t come as a shock to them, but apparently it does, judging from their breathless, scandalised reaction each time the Sutton Trust points it out.
In the latest report, released on Tuesday, we’re told that two-fifths of Britain’s ‘elite’ attended private schools, including 43 per cent of the England cricket team, 48 per cent of FTSE 350 CEOs and 59 per cent of permanent secretaries. This in spite of the fact that only 7 per cent of British adults were educated privately. For Oxbridge, the discrepancy is worse. A measly 1 per cent of the population went to one of those two universities, yet their alumni account for 44 per cent of newspaper columnists, 57 per cent of the cabinet and an eye–watering 71 per cent of senior judges.
Cue howls of outrage from the usual suspects. ‘Our top professions are a closed club, dominated by a wealthy and privileged elite who attended the same private schools,’ thundered Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Labour will give every child the chance to flourish and radically transform society — to break the cycle of entrenched privilege.’ Needless to say, Corbyn did not add that, as a privately educated person himself, he would be stepping aside in favour of Angela Rayner, and there was no mention of John McDonnell, who went to a private Catholic boys’ school. (To read more, click here.)