Alan Milburn: 'End old-school-tie elitism over jobs'

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Indy Politics

Bright children from middle and working class families are missing out on professional jobs because of continuing "elitism", a government-commissioned report warns today.

The report, by a cross-party panel chaired by former Cabinet minister Alan Milburn, calls for urgent action to break "closed shop mentality" which, it says, still characterises the professions in Britain.

The panel found more than half of all the top professional jobs were still taken by candidates who were independently schooled, even though they accounted for just 7 per cent of all schoolchildren.

Failure to break this pattern will, it says, mean that the opportunity of achieving the most significant wave of social mobility since the Second World War will be lost.

The panel was originally set up by Gordon Brown to examine the barriers to entering the professions.

In more than 80 recommendations, it will argue that enhancing social mobility must be the top social priority for any government, now and in the future.

The report will show that while up to nine out of 10 new jobs in the future will be in the professions, they are currently drawn from a relatively narrow section of society.

It will say that the typical professional of tomorrow will be growing up in a family that is better off than seven out of 10 families in Britain, while occupations such as the law and finance are still dominated by people from independent schools.

Currently 75 per cent of judges and 45 per cent of senior civil servants were independently educated.

Among the advantages for children going to private schools or the best state schools are the chance to develop through extra curricular activities and mentoring schemes, which help to mark out candidates when it comes to applying for jobs in the professions.

Later on, when it comes to getting work placements or internships, it can often depend on "who you know", putting children with no connections to the professions at a disadvantage.

Among the measures it recommends for tackling the problem, is a new army of young professionals and university students to mentor young people and a national "Yes you can" campaign, headed by inspirational role models, to raise aspirations.

It also calls for a radical overhaul of work experience programmes, and a new focus on the teaching of "soft skills" in schools.

The panel wants armed services cadet forces - currently largely the preserve of independent schools - to be established as the norm in state schools - teaching team-building and confidence and opening up the armed forces at a professional level for all children.

It also recommends that the Government should examine proposals to give parents a new right of redress, when a school consistently fails them, to allow their child to go to a school of their choice and give schools incentives to take them on.