A Divided System

14 Nov 2013

Does our education and more specifically, where we are educated, make a difference to the sort of jobs that we can get? In my view, it shouldn’t, but in a recent speech, the former Prime Minister Sir John Major claimed that it could. On top of this claim, looking at the evidence of where our political leaders were educated, it seems that he may be right. Most of the Cabinet were educated at public schools and top universities, meaning that perhaps these sorts of jobs fall to the well educated elite. 


Despite this, further down the chain, you see people who progress to highly ranked jobs by working hard and gaining the experience that they get from volunteering, education and life in general. One example of this could be the amount of youth councillors who go on to do jobs or roles that otherwise would be considered to require a lot of qualifications. From me writing for publications such as this, to one person I know becoming a Deputy Mayor, where you go to be educated shouldn’t and in many cases isn’t an influence in what jobs that are available to us. 

Looking at where the majority of the Cabinet were educated, somewhere in their educational history they have either been to Oxford, Cambridge or the London School of Economics. Further to that, there is only one minister in the Cabinet that I can see who made their way up the ladder without skipping a few steps or joining a political group at their university. That man, surprisingly, is Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  If my information is correct, that makes only eighteen percent of the Cabinet from state schools or who did not to go to Oxford or Cambridge. 

Okay, I’m largely using government as an example, but this is something that occurs in the boardroom as well. It seems that if you have been to a private or independent school, it gives you an advantage over others, and I don’t think that this should be the case. In the current jobs market, employers can’t afford to be picky about where their employees come from. One, because it’s illegal under discrimination laws, but I also feel that we should give employees the chance to progress, no matter their background or education. Even in the lowest paid jobs, this is still an important issue to deal with. Youth unemployment is very high and just because you have been to a private school or college doesn’t mean you should be above the rest. 

What I’m trying to say is that there is, for some jobs, an educational divide where it is taken as compulsory to have come from a privileged background and gone to private school. In my view, qualifications and grades are important, but aside from that every candidate should be treated as if they had come from the same sort of school and the same sort of background.  

If this is to be a success and jobs equality is to become fairer, it does involve the efforts of employers but also the schools and colleges from which students come from. This is a problem that needs a united effort to make a difference. Then, I wait to see that day when politics and business is filled with people who have worked their way up, through education and experience. This isn’t likely to happen soon, however, when it does, it will be a victory for jobs and educators alike. 

The problem isn’t that people in top jobs have gone to top universities or colleges. I am glad to see that people are achieving on a high level. The problem is that there needs to be more diversity within business and politics, and their education is a starting point.  This is also an issue of educational standards. There is a problem if state schools are falling behind those that are private, given that, in my view, everyone should receive the same high standard of education. I could go on about this for ages but you get my point. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about next time you see a person in authority. Just think, were they at an advantage because of private education? The sad thing is, the answer is probably yes. Before you ask, yes, I am glad to say that our former Prime Minister Sir John Major was educated at a state school; I just hope one day that people like him will become the norm.

Backbench Minister for Education

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