Britain’s claims to being a land of fairness and opportunity have been thrown into question by a survey revealing the majority of people in influential jobs went to private school.
The survey of 4,000 people in powerful positions showed that 71 percent of senior judges, 62 percent of senior armed forces officers, 55 percent of permanent secretaries, 53 percent of senior diplomats and 50 percent of members of the House of Lords went to independent, fee-paying schools, while only 7 percent of the population as a whole attended such institutions. Members of the cabinet were five times as likely to have attended private school as the general public were, according to the survey conducted by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, an advisory group sponsored by the Department for Education.
“The U.K.’s top jobs remain disproportionately held by people from a narrow range of backgrounds,” Alan Milburn, the commission’s chairman, said in a statement. “The institutions that matter appear to be a cozy club. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Britain is deeply elitist.”
With 10 months to go before the elections, Prime Minister David Cameron -- himself a former pupil of Eton College, Britain’s most prestigious private school -- is anxious to dispel criticism that his Conservative party is favoring only the richest in society. Today’s report echoes comments by former Prime Minister John Major, who in November said it was “truly shocking” that Britain’s elites were still dominated by privately educated people from affluent middle-class families.
The survey also showed that a majority of people in top positions attended Oxford or Cambridge university, including 75 percent of senior judges, 59 percent of the cabinet, 50 percent of diplomats and 47 percent of newspaper columnists.
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