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State educated ministers dominate new cabinet

Sutton Trust analysis shows big rise in state educated ministers

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 15, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Just 30% of Theresa May’s new cabinet received a private education, the lowest proportion for a new Prime Minister's cabinet since Attlee in 1945, Sutton Trust analysis has revealed.

With 44% educated at non-selective state schools, the new cabinet has a higher proportion of comprehensive educated ministers than David Cameron’s 2015 cabinet (43%) or the 2010 coalition cabinet (21%). With the addition of grammar school alumni, 70% are state educated. 

Cabinet ministers are still over four times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school for all or part of their secondary education than the general population, of which 7% went to private schools 

However, the proportion of independently educated ministers attending Cabinet is nearly half that of the previous cabinet (50%) and much lower than the coalition 2010 cabinet (62%). It is significantly less than earlier cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91% in 1979). Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both had 32% of those attending cabinet privately educated, while 25% of Clement Attlee's first cabinet had been privately educated.

70% of cabinet ministers were educated in state schools, compared with 21% of the cabinet in 2010 and 43% in 2015. More than a quarter (26%) attended state grammar schools from the age of 11, while the Prime Minister did so from the age of 13. 

The figures remind us how important it is to make sure that young people from low and middle income backgrounds also have access to the best schools and the best universities that will enable them to get to the top of so many of our professions which remain largely the preserve of the privately educated

Of the 27 ministers attending Theresa May’s new cabinet, 44% went to Oxford or Cambridge universities. This compares with 32% of backbench Conservative MPs in the 2015 parliament, and 26% of all MPs who attended Oxbridge. 50% of David Cameron’s 2010 cabinet were Oxbridge-educated 

A further 41% were educated at other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge), compared to 25% of backbench Conservatives and 28% of all MPs. Prime Minister Theresa May continues the academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to before the start of World War 2: with the exception of Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1937 who attended university was educated at one institution – Oxford.

Last year Parliamentary Privilege – the MPs, a research brief published by the Sutton Trust showed that 32% of the new House of Commons elected in 2015 were privately educated. 

Around half (48%) of Conservative MPs attended fee-paying schools, compared to 14% of Liberal Democrats, 5% of SNP MPs for whom we had data and 17% of Labour MPs. Among other MPs, 24% went to a fee-paying school. However, the proportion of privately educated Conservative MPs had fallen from 54% in the last parliament and 73% in 1979.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation said: “I was heartened by the new Prime Minister’s declaration on the importance of social mobility in her remarks outside number 10 on Wednesday evening. She was absolutely right to highlight the importance of ensuring that everyone should get as far as their talents can take them. 

"Anyone should be able to become a minister, regardless of social background. It is good to see so many more comprehensive and grammar educated cabinet ministers, reflecting the schools attended by 90% of children. But the figures remind us how important it is to make sure that young people from low and middle income backgrounds also have access to the best schools and the best universities that will enable them to get to the top of so many of our professions which remain largely the preserve of the privately educated." 

W: www.suttontrust.com 

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