I am a white, middle class, middle aged male who went to public school and I am in trouble again.
University College London has carried out a survey among 16-year-olds at independent schools and found they have higher levels of self-esteem than their counterparts in the state sector, and they are much more likely to believe they can get a job through their family or social contacts.
Some might find this blindingly obvious, and say, that is why parents send their sons and daughters to public school, to gain an advantage over state pupils. The whole topic is back in the news. My colleague Louise Cooper has written movingly about being humiliated, as a working class female seeking a job, by those same male, middle aged public school types.
The figures have been dragged out again, the number of judges, senior members of the armed forces, newspaper columnists and other influential voices that enjoyed a private education. She mentions them. Plainly, they operate a closed shop designed to keep the oiks away from the plum jobs and the corridors of power.
Might I suggest it is a little more complex than that?
Three points. One, those influential people are more likely to be from public schools because when they were being educated, decades ago, such schools offered a much better education than the state sector. My parents were from a working class background. They spent much of their money ensuring I got a better education than I would have at the comprehensive down the road, which was seriously awful.
It was awful because of the changes made to the education system, and the dumbing down of same, by politicians on the left who, the record shows, were themselves the product of a privileged education. Nothing like pulling the ladder up once you’ve got to the top, is there?
Second, I do not believe that those influential ex-public school types operate a deliberate exclusion policy today. We, and I am one of them even if I do not make such decisions, do not sit around in sniggering cabals saying, no, not that one, too common. Not that one, wrong skin colour. Not that one, a woman. Blimey, this one’s a woman, black and common. No chance.
They may once have done just that. The sort of posh bank where Louise Cooper was humiliated during her job interview (which you can read about here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/11984171/The-class-ceiling-is-worse-than-the-glass-ceiling-ever-was.html ) probably doesn’t exist any more, though. The City, the media and I suspect the law are much more meritocratic than they were. In the media, as I know, a degree of diversity is actually useful, allowing you to connect with a wider readership.
Third, all this is self-correcting in time. This may come as no comfort to those who think they are now suffering the stigma of a state education, but the independent sector, as a provider of the elite of the future, is withering. Fees are so high that it is no longer affordable for the sort of middle class parents who once sent their offspring there.
I could never afford to send my kids to my old school, and nor could my parents if they were bringing me up now. The headmaster of my school admitted recently that his job was mainly educating the offspring of oligarchs. The public school system looks increasingly like another source of UK invisible earnings.
Instead, the middle classes are having to use the state sector, and are demanding better standards, which can only lead to an improvement all around. And indeed, standards do seem to be improving at many state schools, though whether this is cause and effect it is probably too soon to tell.
Sancte et Sapienter, as my old school used to say. With holiness and wisdom.