Working class kids must be given the chance to progress

Gloria De Piero MP.
Gloria De Piero MP.

I was proud to be part of a case study this week in a report released by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission, writes Gloria De Piero.

The report was entitled ‘Elitist Britain 2019’ and looks at the educational backgrounds of Britain’s elite across a broad range of sectors.

The findings will surprise nobody – that the most powerful careers and sectors are still dominated by the privately educated.

Two-fifths of the elite written about in the report attended independent schools, more than five times as many as the population in general.

Why is this important?

Because it should not be that the prospects of those educated at private schools are significantly brighter than their peers, just because of their background.

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The report found that 65 per cent of senior judges went to an independent school, as did 59 per cent of the most senior civil servants in Whitehall, 57 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 52 per cent of diplomats and 44 per cent of newspaper columnists.

This shows that the influence and privilege that a private education provides is extremely far reaching and that the so called ‘old boys network’ and saying that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’, still ring true.

These numbers may be slowly declining, but they are still far too high.

This is a problem because the institutions running our country — Parliament, the judiciary, the media, the civil service — do not reflect the class make-up of the country.

How can they expect to fully represent or understand ‘normal’ people if they have not been educated alongside them and do not work alongside them?

Most people know that I buck the trend – I was brought up in a household reliant on benefits and had no connections to hoist me into a top job. I had to work up from the bottom.

I want to ensure that talented working class kids today are given chances to progress into elite careers, because there is so much untapped talent in communities like
ours.

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The report presents some ways to address the power and money gap that exists between different socio-economic backgrounds.

These include tackling the financial barriers that lead to entry in top professions; the end of long unpaid internships and high quality careers advice being offered to all pupils at all schools.

I also think that scrapping university tuition fees and reintroducing Education Maintenance Allowance would also encourage more working class kids to go to university.

There is no quick fix, but this is something that needs to be addressed now.