Those of you who have read the BUCF blog over the past year or so will know that this is a favoured topic of mine. I will not bore you all again as to why this is as the reasons are outlined in posts made at the end of 2009. This week’s events make this topic relevant once again.
On Monday, I attended a Professional Studies lecture and seminar about equal opportunities in schools (for those who don’t know, since leaving Brum I have become a trainee teacher). Having done the readings beforehand and listening to the lecture it became clear that over the past 25 years social mobility has declined enormously. This, will of course not be news to most of you.
This week also saw the launch of the BBC “Great British Class Survey” – https://www.bbc.co.uk/labuk/experiments/class/ – into whether class still matters in modern Britain. My view is that it does but that this is a complete and utter shame. I took the survey – it takes about 15 mins – and instead of telling you what class you are, the results tell you what aspect of your life (culture, money, and social networks) have the greatest influence on how you get on in the world. It in fact asks you to define your own class – I personally feel that I’m middle middle class (as opposed to lower middle class for example). I don’t see why they had to divide middle class but there we are. Some of you may disagree with me given what you know about me but there we are. Apparently my cultural range is broader than 90% of the UK and therefore is my highest category (I scored 100 out of 100 in this area). This suggests, according to the survey, that my social network is likely to be very diverse – which it is. I think this in turns means I potentially have more influence.
On Thursday at 9pm on BBC2 Andrew Neill of This Week fame presented a programme entitled “Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00y37gk/Posh_and_Posher_Why_Public_School_Boys_Run_Britain/). I have, as you may know, commented on this issue before but the programme was most informative and insightful but also in parts quite depressing. A Scottish girl sitting her Highers in a state school felt that there was no possibility of someone like her being able to go to Oxbridge, or indeed enter the world of politics. This is desperately sad given that the word “politics” is derived from the Greek for “citizen”. David Davis, a self-proclaimed working class Tory, was featured in the show and the point he made was that nowadays someone from his background was less likely to end up where he is now. I can of course draw parallels here to my own father who almost certainly would not have ended up drafting this country’s legislation in Whitehall had he be born say 25-30 years later. A group of BUCF members/supporters went to a dinner last night where David Davis was the guest speaker, hence the relevance to this society.
So before people are quick to criticise the number of privately and/or Oxbridge-educated MPs I urge them to think about the reasons why people from these backgrounds perhaps may be better equipped to hold office. When I was at school, we had a strong debating team which competed against other (mainly private) schools in the area – I was not on the debating team, my interest in politics hadn’t developed fully back then. I know that debating and EYP are being more and more encouraged in the state sector but certainly 5 years ago these competitions were dominated by independent schools, certainly where I’m from. As always, I do not seek to offend anyone with my comments and I am not suggesting that only privately-educated people should be in positions of power – I know how some remarks on this blog can be misinterpreted. I simply mean that at schools like Westminster, in particular, politics is thrust upon the pupils, whether they like it or not.
We need to get our young people from all backgrounds interested in politics - I don’t care which party they agree with as long as they have an informed opinion. I feel this will be a great challenge for people of my generation - to spark an interest in the minds of the next.