Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Education and Class; Views of the North

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Education and Class; Views of the North

Article excerpt

RACHEL Wearmouth's article on a "deeply elitist" Britain gave much food for thought (Journal, August 29).

The news that a preponderance of privately-educated Oxbridge graduates dominates society's top jobs comes as no surprise if you look back over the history of (specifically) English education.

For 700 years in England there were only two universities. If there had not been a serious rift among the scholars of Oxford University there would have been no Cambridge.

However in the early 19th Century Durham University and University College, London, were set up so there were greater options for study. This latter institution was often disparagingly referred to as "that joint-stock company in Gower Street".

English education at all levels has been bedevilled by sectarianism and class. The result was that non-Anglicans had to set up their own Dissenters' schools, prior to the creation of school boards towards the last quarter of the 19th Century.

The products of these schools tended to study for their degrees at Edinburgh University. The religious element caused trouble in education up to 1931, as Charles Trevelyan discovered.

Today, an even more elite system has evolved in our universities. Oxbridge has been subsumed into a group of 25 universities called the Russell Group. This is yet another increased challenge for our young people as the group's standards are very high and competition for places is intense.

Equally intense by all manner of organisations is the demand for the alumni of these institutions. It is not unknown for a job advert to bear the legend "Russell Group graduate preferred". However, another unwanted burden is a annual fee of PS9000 and living expenses of anything up to PS5000.

As regards the private school sector, its demise was predicted by R A Butler when he drew up the 1944 Education Act. It was believed that post war Britain would have no money for private schooling. History however proved this hypothesis to be incorrect. …

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