NEW RESEARCH by the Sutton Trust reveals a major shift in the educational profile of the House of Commons following the general election.

Overall, of the 650 MPs, 63 per cent were educated at comprehensive schools, which is the highest proportion than ever recorded. This means the new House of Commons is closer to reflecting the 88 per cent of Britons who attended comprehensive schools. In comparison, only 54 per cent of the MPs elected at the 2019 general election went to a comprehensive school, and 52 per cent in 2017.

Most strikingly, there has been a change in the proportion of comprehensive-educated MPs holding power: 73 per cent of Labour MPs attended comprehensives, compared to 42 per cent of Conservative MPs elected in 2019.

Twenty-three per cent of MPs were independently educated at secondary school, compared to seven per cent of the population. This is a significant decrease compared to the 29 per cent of MPs at both the 2019 and 2017 general elections. Thirteen per cent of all MPs attended a grammar school, in comparison with 16 per cent of the MPs elected in 2019 and 17 per cent in 2017.

Forty-six per cent of Conservative MPs and 15 per cent of Labour MPs attended independent schools, compared to 41 per cent and 14 per cent respectively in 2019. Of the 126 MPs who went to independent schools, only four went to Eton, compared to 11 in 2019.

However, the majority of MPs continued to attend a narrow range of universities: 55 per cent attended Russell Group universities (54 per cent in 2019), including 20 per cent who went to Oxford or Cambridge (21 per cent in 2019). It is also notable that 10 per cent of MPs did not take an undergraduate degree, compared to 12 per cent in 2019.

As MPs make decisions that impact all of us, who they are, as well as their backgrounds and experiences, impact on the decisions they make and the issues they choose to prioritise. If MPs come from very similar socio-economic backgrounds, and if their backgrounds look very different to those of the public, there is a risk that the concerns and priorities of all parts of society will not be adequately reflected in Parliament. The research findings represent a significant rebalancing in the educational profile of the House of Commons towards closer representation of the public.

To build on this, the Sutton Trust is recommending that all parties review whether their candidate selection processes are open to individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds. They should look at running support schemes and mentoring programmes aimed at increasing the representation of individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds, similar to the existing schemes to improve gender or ethnic diversity. They should also monitor and anonymously report on the socio-economic background of those that apply to become candidates for their party.

Nick Harrison, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said: “This election represents a sea change in the education backgrounds of the governing party in the new House of Commons, with around three quarters of Labour MPs having attended comprehensive schools. The proportion of all MPs educated at comprehensives has also increased markedly, making this Parliament the most representative of the UK’s schooling ever recorded. This matters because people are naturally shaped by their background and life experiences, so it’s important for society that our politicians better reflect the reality of the wider population.

“However, there’s still a long way to go before the Commons is truly representative of the 88 per cent of the population who went to comprehensive schools. If Parliament is to truly reflect the nation, it’s vital that more is done to enable talented people from all backgrounds to get the opportunity to become MPs.”

* The full results of the analysis can be donloaded here.

* Source: The Sutton Trust