Special report: Working-class pupils went to private schools under Margaret Thatcher’s abolished assisted places scheme - how did they get on?

 

Under Margaret Thatcher’s government, they were plucked from poverty and taken out of state schools to attend top private schools instead, courtesy of the state. 

The children of the Assisted Places Scheme are now in their 40s. And according to research published today, about half of them are likely to be earning at least £90,000 a year and sending their own children to private schools – but none of them will be dirtying their hands with any kind of manual work.

Most of them will also have married into families from a middle-class background. But before David Cameron gets too excited about the foresight of his forbearers, the one thing that they are divided on is their voting intentions. The Assisted Placers are equally split between Conservative and Labour – with 31 per cent supporting each. The Greens are in third place with 14 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats languish in fourth place with just 7 per cent support.

More than 75,000 bright children from state schools benefited from the Assisted Places scheme in its 17 years of operation between 1980 and 1997. It was abolished as one of Labour’s first acts in 1997 to provide more cash for reducing class sizes in state schools for five- to seven-year-olds.

A survey commissioned for the education charity the Sutton Trust reveals that 40 per cent are earning £90,000 a year or more and two-thirds say their standard of living has not been affected by the economic crisis. Three-quarters believe they will be better off in 10 years time than they are now.

In addition, more than four out of five went on to university – with 15.6 per cent ending up at an elite university like Oxford or Cambridge or another highly selective institution.

“Even those who didn’t go to university are in solidly middle-class occupations with a good income,” the survey adds.

The report, by Professor Sally Power, Professor Geoff Whitty and Dr Stuart Sims from the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research and covering interviews with 77 former pupils, backs up her comments.

“Respondents said their independent schools helped them develop personal attributes, such as self-discipline and self-reliance,” it said. “Their schools also contributed to the development of enduring social networks. Although family ties remain strong, the Assisted Place holders move in well-qualified circles of friends and a relatively high proportion married privately educated spouses.”

The Assisted Placers also tend to believe that standards in private schools are higher than those in the state sector. “Their own experience of private education has strongly influenced the decisions that they have made about their children’s education,” it said.

“Around half our respondents with children have chosen private schools for their children (the national average is 7 per cent). They are overwhelmingly in favour of the reintroduction of the Assisted Places Scheme.”

You might have thought that the Sutton Trust’s recommendation would be the scheme’s immediate reinstatement. Not so. Sir Peter Lampl, the millionaire philanthropist who set up the charity to provide equal opportunities in education for pupils from poorer homes, believes the scheme did not cast its net widely enough.

He said: “Parachuting a few low- and middle-income children into a school where all other children are full fee payers does not work socially – as a result, some of the Assisted Place holders either dropped out or did not realise the full benefits.”

He said a “much better” model was the Open Access scheme trialled by the Trust at Belvedere school in Liverpool, where every place was available on merit and the Trust paid for those whose parents could not afford it. The school had 30 per cent on free places, 40 per cent paying partial fees and the rest paying the full amount.

Case study: ‘I learnt there was life outside of the estate’

Angela Akers, 42, says the scheme gave  her the confidence to pursue a career as a senior dental officer

I loved it from day one,” she says of her time at Hulme Grammar School in Oldham. “Obviously the educational aspect made a huge difference.”

She studied maths, physics and chemistry at A-level and went on to take a degree in dentistry at Manchester University.

“It was more than that, though. When I was a child I lived on a council estate and the local secondary school was slap in the middle of it, I learned there was a life outside of the council estate.”

She can recall that some of her fellow pupils were secretive about whether they were on the scheme – possibly because they were worried about the consequences. “I was open about it from the start,” she said.

She now teaches dentistry undergraduates.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

EYFS Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require an ex...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home