A very happy birthday... if you’re privately educated


An Eton and Oxbridge education is still a must for high-fliers in a whole host of professions ranging from acting to the judiciary and the diplomatic service, according to research to be published later today.

Figures show a third of top people whose birthdays are recorded by national newspapers were Oxbridge educated (31 per cent)  while four per cent (330 in a year) had been to Eton.

The research, published by the education charity the Sutton Trust, also shows that - of the schools with the most mentions - the entire top 50 were all independent.  The best ranking state school was Watford Grammar School in Hertfordshire - now comprehensive but selective at the time most of the birthday boys and girls were attending it - with 17 mentions.

The top two authentic comprehensives, i.e that had been always been non-selective state schools, were the two often dubbed “the socialist Etons”, Holland Park which educated all the children of Tony Benn, and Haverstock, the Milibands’ (Ed and David) school.

“This analysis shows how dominant leading universities and schools remain across the professions in Britain,” said Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust - which campaigns for more access to top schools and universities for young people from disadvantaged communities.

“That’s it is so important that access to our leading schools and universities is on the basis of ability alone.”

The Trust, which celebrates its 15th anniversary today, is campaigning for government support for “open access” independent schools - where admission would be entirely on ability with the state subsidising the fees of those whose parents cannot afford.  Already 90 private day schools - including Manchester Grammar and King Edward’s Boys’ in Birmingham - have backed the campaign.

The professions most dominated at the top by independent school alumni were ‘public service’ - which includes royalty, lord lieutenants and top civil servants - at 68 per cent, followed by law at 63 per cent and the armed services at 60 per cent. The least dominated was the police force with just 13 per cent.

Overall, 44 per cent on those on the birthday lists - taken from the Independent, Independent on Sunday, Times and Sunday Times - came from private schools, 27 per cent from state grammar schools and only 10 per cent from comprehensive.  Just one per cent came from secondary modern schools and the only actor to have come through from this route was Colin Firth, who attended Montgomery of Alamein school in Winchester, Hampshire.

Actors from Eton included Dominic West and Hugh Laurie while Sir Kenneth Branagh and Daniel Craig were amongst those to have come from comprehensive schools.

There were no former secondary modern students amongst those in broadcasting - although the BBC’s Robert Peston and Strictly Come Dancing’s Tess Daly came from comprehensive schools.

“Studies like this ... show how far we still need to go to improve social mobility in this country and ensure that every young person can achieve his or her potential, regardless of their family background,” added Sir Peter.

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