Elite education linked to top jobs

A new report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has analysed the background of 4,000 leaders in politics, business, the media, and other aspects of public life.
In the UK, 7% of pupils attend independent schools. The research shows that a disproportionate number of these pupils go on to fill top jobs, including 71% of senior judges, 33% of MPs, 36% of the Cabinet, 45% of public body chairs, and 43% of newspaper columnists.

The research presents a similar picture in terms of those adults who graduated from Oxbridge. Although this figure is less than 1% of the UK adult population, alumni of these universities make up 75% of senior judges, 24% of MPs, 59% of the Cabinet, 44% of public body chairs, and 47% of newspaper columnists.

Although the report acknowledges that many talented people go to independent schools, the authors argue that certain professions should be more representative of the public for reasons of legitimacy. The authors also conclude that a narrow elite suggests serious limits on adult social mobility, and that the sheer scale of the dominance of certain backgrounds raises questions about the degree to which the composition of the elite reflects merit.

Source: Elitist Britain (2014), Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Poorer high achievers falling short of potential

New research conducted by the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions tracked the performance of high-achieving pupils from deprived backgrounds through the education system, and compared their trajectories with their more advantaged peers.

The authors found that children from poorer backgrounds who are high achieving at age 7 are more likely to fall off a high achievement trajectory than children from richer backgrounds. High-achieving children from the most deprived families perform worse than lower-achieving pupils from the least deprived families by Key Stage 4 (KS4). Conversely, lower-achieving affluent children catch up with higher-achieving deprived children between KS2 and KS4.

The research focused on children born in 1991–92. Of these, 2.8% of pupils (921 out of 33,039) who claimed free school meals (FSM) throughout secondary school went to an “elite” university, compared with 9.9% of pupils (40,165 out of 406,596) who never claimed FSM in secondary school. These differences can largely be explained by the higher levels of achievement of pupils from more affluent backgrounds.

The authors conclude that the period between KS2 and KS4 seems a crucial time to ensure that higher-achieving pupils from poor backgrounds remain on a high achievement trajectory, and that this is potentially important for policy makers interested in increasing participation at high-status universities among young people from more deprived backgrounds.

Source: High-attaining Children from Disadvantaged Backgrounds (2014), Social Mobility and Child Poverty Comission.

Privileged graduates get the top jobs

New research funded by the UK’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has found that socio-economic status and private schooling still affect an individual’s chance of securing a top job, even when comparing students from the same institution type, taking the same subjects, and with the same degree class.

The study looked at the destinations of over 20,000 young people who graduated from university in England, Scotland, and Wales in 2006/07. It found that socio-economic background was not associated with an increased chance of securing a top job six months after graduation, although graduates who attended private schools were more likely to have secured a top job by this point.

However, three years after graduation those from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds and those who attended private schools were more likely to be in top jobs, including top administrative, professional, and managerial roles in professions such as law.

Source: Mapping the occupational destinations of new graduates (2013), Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.