Letter: Access for all to the 'fast stream'

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The Independent Online
Sir: I hesitate to disagree with Sir Peter Kemp's assertion (report, 5 May) that the fast-entry system into the higher ranks of the Civil Service leads to those who enter by other means being held back by people who are provided with a 'gilded path' to the top without, as he puts it, having ever done a hand's turn of work. As I am sure Sir Peter knows, the Civil Service has, since the early Fifties, offered a range of opportunities to people who have lacked a higher education and who have joined the service, as in my own case, at the lowest level, to win access to the fast stream and progress to the most senior levels.

I ended my Civil Service career as a deputy secretary. But I can name at least two permanent secretaries who have achieved their own success by the same means, and without encountering - or at least, without being defeated by - the pressures of the Establishment.

There is much that is wrong with the Civil Service, and there is much that the service can learn - and is learning - from the private sector about how to enter and succeed in the market. But there are, conversely, a great many employers in the private sector who could learn from the Civil Service about how to provide opportunities for their employees to succeed without the benefits of education, class or connections.

Yours faithfully,

IVOR LIGHTMAN

Cardiff

5 May

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