Sutton Trust analysis shows educational profile of MPs remains relatively unchanged

By agency reporter
December 17, 2019

The general election may have changed the political landscape, but the educational profile of the House of Commons is relatively unchanged, research from the Sutton Trust reveals.

Twenty-nine per cent of MPs have been independently educated, compared to seven per cent of the population. This remains the same as in the 2017 general election. Over half (54  per cent) of the new House of Commons went to a comprehensive school, up slightly from 52 per cent following the 2017 election.

The  research suggests that the educational backgrounds of members of the Commons is widening, albeit slowly.  Of 155 newly elected MPs, 62 per cent were educated at comprehensive schools, while a further 22 per centwent to independent schools and 14 per cent were educated at grammars. Of the major parties, comprehensive schools were attended by 41 per cent of Conservative MPs and 70 per cent of Labour MPs, while 16 per cent of all MPs attended a grammar school, in comparison to 17 per cent of the MPs elected in 2017.

Seven per centof the general population attend independent schools, in contrast to 41 per cent of Conservative MPs and 14 per cent of Labour MPs. Of the 173 MPs who went to independent schools, 11 went to Eton, including Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Oxford and Cambridge educated 21 per cent of MPs, while a further 33 per cent attended another Russell Group university. In recent years, the Sutton Trust says there have been a growing number of MPs from a group of non-Russell Group universities such as Hull, Brunel, Sussex and Aberdeen, with 10, 8, 7 and 5 MPs respectively.

The Sutton Trust’s recent Mobility Manifesto contains practical and wide-ranging recommendations for improving social mobility, including at the top of British life. These include:

  • Early Years

The Government should review its 30 hours of free childcare policy to ensure that childcare entitlements do not exclude the most disadvantaged families.

  • School Years – Admissions

State school admissions should ensure a better social mix across the system, with consideration given to ballots and priority for disadvantaged students, particularly to open up high performing comprehensive and grammar schools.

  • Open Access

Independent schools should be opened up, on a voluntary basis, to pupils from all backgrounds. As a pilot, entry to 10 leading independent day schools should be democratised through implementation of the Open Access Scheme, where places are allocated based on merit alone, not money.

  • Access to Opportunities – Highly Able

The new government should establish an evidence-led fund to support young people with high academic potential, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

  • Essential Life Skills

State schools should be funded and incentivised to develop essential life skills in their students both in and out of the classroom.

  • Higher Apprenticeships

There should be a focus on increasing the number of degree and higher level apprenticeships as an alternative to university.

  • University access – Contextual admissions

Contextual admissions should be used by more highly-selective universities to open up access to students from less privileged backgrounds.

  • University access – Post Qualification Applications

Post Qualification Applications (PQA) to university should be implemented to allow young people to make an informed choice based on their actual rather than predicted grades.

  • Student finance

Maintenance grants for students should be restored to at least pre-2016 levels to provide support for those who need it most and reduce the debt burden of the least well-off.  In order to reduce their debt even more, the government should reintroduce means-tested fees.

  • Access to the Workplace – Internships

The government should ban unpaid internships, ensuring that after four weeks, interns are always paid the minimum wage, or preferably the living wage.

On 13 December 2019, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman and founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The landscape of British politics changed considerably this morning.  However the educational background of the new House of Commons remains similar to the last one.  There has been a small increase in the numbers of MPs educated at comprehensive schools.

“However, MPs are still four times as likely to have been to an independent school than a state school and three times as likely to have been to a grammar school than to a comprehensive school.  If parliament is to truly represent the nation, it is crucial we act on a wide range of fronts so that talented people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to become MPs.”

* Sutton Trust


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