Social mobility 'still a problem in UK', says Cameron

Eton Sir John Major said the privately educated wield a "shocking" level of influence on public life

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More needs to be done to get people who are not white and middle class into top jobs, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister suggested the government needed to "get out there and find people, win them over, get them to raise aspirations".

It comes after Sir John Major described the dominance of the privately educated in public life as "truly shocking".

Mr Cameron, who went to Eton then Oxford, was speaking to reporters on a flight to India.

He said he agreed with Sir John's comments earlier this week, which were interpreted by some as an attack on the backgrounds of the prime minister's team.

More than half the current cabinet were educated privately.

Start Quote

Just opening the door and saying 'we are in favour of equality of opportunity', that's not enough”

End Quote David Cameron

Mr Cameron said he welcomed the debate started by his predecessor as Conservative prime minister, but acknowledged there was still "not as much social mobility as there needs to be".

He told journalists he wanted to see a Britain where "no matter where you come from, what god you worship, the colour of your skin, what community you belong to", people should be able to "get to the top" in the media, judiciary, armed services and politics.

"We are making some progress in those areas," he said. "But it is not fast enough and we need to go further and faster."

He added that he wanted to do more than merely "make changes and sit back".

"Just opening the door and saying 'we are in favour of equality of opportunity', that's not enough.

"You've got to get out there and find people, win them over, get them to raise aspirations, get them to think they can get all the way to the top."

Labour criticised the remarks, accusing the prime minister of "locking out opportunity for the next generation and only standing up only for a privileged few".

But Alan Milburn - one of the party's former cabinet ministers, now an adviser to the coalition - said "flat-lining mobility" had been "decades in the making".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    I went to a grammar school, by the luck of my 11+ result.. Therefore I went to Uni and got a good job as a result. Given the rubbish state education in my area, I have paid for my 2 kids to be educated privately. My son is currently doing Eng, French, Russian and Psyhcology A levels, plus GSCE Mandarin and teaching self learned Japanese to his mates in his lunchtimes. It is about aspiration

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    The reintroduction of grammar schools (they weren't the problem it was the woeful secondary moderns - having experienced both).

    I read an interesting article by a teacher once who was incredulous when her star pupil failed to get into Oxford, but then met successful applicants from private schools, and was staggered buy how much further ahead these pupils were.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    If you want to encourage social mobility:

    Abolish the estate tax, allowing people to give their assets to their children, so that they can enjoy a better life than their parents did at that stage in their lives.

    Abolish the much of the wasteful Nanny State, and the huge taxes that fund too, allowing hard workers to retain their hard earned wages and to save and spend them how they see best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    If he was really serious about creating a more level playing field, the first step would be to abolish private schools or at least look at ways of meaningfully reducing all the unfair advantages thay they bestow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The solution is simple - abolish private schools and put all the money into state schools. Then we start with an even playing field. Or put as much money per head into state schools as goes into private schools. Not the politics of envy just the politics of fareness.

    Let's go back to the 70s and have full employment as prime objective so all can belong by contributing - councils helped this then.


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