Former cabinet minister Alan Milburn's report on social mobility raises the issue of educational privilege which, until now, the government has "largely fought shy of", says Gaby Hinsliff in The Observer. The facts are stark. Privately educated children are four times more likely than state-school pupils to get straight As at A-level.
Nearly 50% of Oxbridge students come from the 7% of the population that are privately educated, as do nearly 75% of judges, a third of FTSE 100 CEOs and a third of MPs. Education isn't the only factor: a bright baby from a poor background is less likely to have ambitious parents or be raised in a stimulating environment, and his or her parents are less likely to have contacts that will ease the child's path into a good job.
Such conclusions are what we've come to expect from the "Department of the Bleeding Obvious", says Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph. Falling social mobility is mainly down to our "shocking state education system". The solution? Open more grammar schools.
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In Northern Ireland, which still has them, "not only are the results from the selective schools superb so are those from the non-selective ones, where teachers concentrate on developing children's particular aptitudes". Let universities charge what they like, too: this would raise money from foreign students, enabling colleges to be "generous to many clever but impecunious students".
The decline in grammars and rise in near-worthless university degrees have played a part, says Mary Riddell, also in The Daily Telegraph. But the key issue is the chasm between the wealthy few, for whom this recession will be a "blip", and the debt-burdened majority, for whom it could be a "life sentence". Brown must state unequivocally that "obscene inequalities in wealth and pay will no longer be sacrosanct".
Equality of opportunity cannot happen in a society as "grossly unequal" as ours, agrees Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. "You can't allow the well-off to keep acquiring more and at the same time hope the children of the poor can catch up with rich children's life chances. Social mobility is not a separate programme that you can add regardless, like pepper and salt."
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