To be successful in Britain now, you have to be posh. The new Cabinet proves it

PUBLISHED: 06:12 01 August 2019

Would Boris have become PM without family wealth and connections? Picture: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire

Would Boris have become PM without family wealth and connections? Picture: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire

Rachel Moore says the class system is alive and well and it’s time to stop believing in a meritocracy

Parents want better for their children; for them to seize the opportunities they never had and make life work for them.

We sell them this fairytale from their first days at school - hard work pays off, trying their best and succeeding will reap rewards and make a difference to their lives.

They grow up believing that education is key to the social mobility their parents never had.

Education creates a level playing field when employers judge them, we believe.

And, later this month, we'll herald state school students' outstanding A-level and GCSE results, believing that sheaf of A*s will catapult them through the doors of opportunity.

But we've lied to them all their lives, because we want to believe it. We want education to be key to meritocracy - but look at the new Cabinet. It's not.

Achievement in Britain is still defined by where you come from, how privileged you are, how you speak, what you wear, where you went to school and who you know.

The privileged can still succeed by failing, while qualified talented more high-achieving brilliant young person from working class backgrounds can't even reach the door handle that was thrown open to their poorer-qualified posh kid who talks the talk, knows the people and is comfortable around cutlery at a six-course meal.

BBC media editor Amol Rajan this week gave us the evidence this week on BBC2 by following talented first class achievers failing to get to interview stage in the City, while their privately-educated contemporaries waltzed into graduate jobs at Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.

It was such depressing viewing, proving that little has changed since George Orwell said that Britain was still "the most class-ridden country under the sun."

A privately-educated graduate who achieves a lower second class degree (A 'Desmond' 2:2 (Tutu) from a top university is more likely to be recruited into the 'elite' jobs - banking, finance, media, - than someone with a first class degree from a working class family. In other words, the privilege succeed by failing

And they get paid on average £7,000 a year more, according to the The Glass Ceiling Why it Pays to Be Privileged by Sam Freidman at the London School of Economics.

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Your 18-year-old might well achieve the highest grades later this month and make you cry as you drop them off at a dreaming spire university, but they are already wading through treacle in welly boots as their private school counterparts, with lower grades, whizz by waving in their speedboats. Whatever we say, we are still so deferential we choose that Eton and Oxford as the combination to lead us? In 2019 multi-cultural Britain? It makes me shudder, in the week that Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted his staff should only use Imperial measurements.

We might emphasise how crucial to try is in the formula of success. But they will soon learn that they have to try twice as hard as their more privileged contemporaries who are already half there because they know how to shake hands, be confident in small talk about ski resorts and sailing clubs and dress codes and comfortable in situations working class young people have never experienced.

Employers call it 'polish'; we might call it over-confident bull****, but it works.

Meanwhile, a huge pool of talent is sitting ignored.

These institutions need to stop slamming the door shut and start wedging it open by investing in helping the less fortunate to achieve this polish (by wealth) by mentoring in schools. It will give them access to the best brains not just the wealthiest and make social mobility a reality by meeting the brilliance they never see from CVs.

Tony Blair saw education as the great leveller and wanted 50% of young people to have the chance to go to university rather than the seven per cent in my day.

The numbers might have worked but the opportunities created by it haven't.

We've maintained our snootiness against technical education - the type of skills learning that 's a priority in Germany and other European and Scandinavian nations - and ended up with swarms of arty subject graduates who borrowed tens of thousands for an education that leads nowhere.

And the prejudice runs even deeper. For any first job, experience is essential. Young people can only get this experience by bankrolling parents.

Unpaid internships are the big evil of crushing equality of opportunity and the preserve of the privileged.

My friend, who has supported her son through a degree (first class) at a top university, a masters at another, now faces paying for him to live in Germany for months to rack up experience in an unpaid internship to have a sniff of a chance of his chosen career in international aid.

He is nearly 23 and his mother is still paying for his rent, living expenses and, in short, for him to offer his brilliance for free to an organisation that could afford to pay.

Unpaid internships should be banned because it's exploitation, but also prohibiting so many the chance of getting experience to find abreak into a career.

Everyone should be recompensed for their input but companies are creaming off talent for nothing. Interns work so hard because they have hope a paid job might come at the end. Often it doesn't. We are going backwards.

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