Oliver Duff

i Editor's Letter: The persistence of a privately educated elite

A damning snapshot of where we are as a nation

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"In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class.” That was Sir John Major last year. All of our political leaders agree.

So today’s major report into British society, which reveals in stark detail the persistence of an elite “formed on the playing fields of independent schools” and “finished in Oxbridge’s dreaming spires”, is an unsurprising, if damning, snapshot of where we are as a nation.

Who you are born to, and where, should not affect someone’s life chances as much as it does in Britain. Changing this matters not only because it is socially just, nor because our professions and public bodies cannot otherwise understand the people they claim to represent, but because it will make our society livelier and our workforce more competitive, boosting our collective standard of living and wellbeing.

Am I a hypocrite, or an example of social mobility? You can decide. I was a state school oik lucky to be forced into applying for a top university (Cambridge) by my history teacher, coached by him for the application and interview. I got a break and a conditional offer – and, sure, then I worked hard to get the grades I needed. I take pride in my parents’ quiet  determination to try to better their children’s chances in life, without resorting to swivel-eyed pushiness. Not everyone can be so fortunate. Until that journey becomes easier for more people, then politicians, the civil service, judiciary, and, yes, the media, cannot pretend that we do enough.

At i, we updated you recently on the progress of our three paid apprentices  – a programme that has since been adopted nationally. We will also soon return to our “Back to School” campaign, which aims to emulate private schools’ great success in connecting their current and former students.

Twitter: @olyduff

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