07/12/2011 13:28 GMT | Updated 06/02/2012 05:12 GMT

Private Schools Could Be Guilty Of Causing 'People Like Us' Attitude

Private schooling can create a "people like us" attitude that may lead to a social segregation, according to research conducted by Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley for NatCen.

Senior figures that play a large role in shaping society, such as politicians, judges and civil servants, are disproportionately educated at private schools, the study found. It added that major differences between the views of the those who went to private school and those who had a state education cannot be fully explained by parental income.

"We suspect that at least some people who were privately-educated have adopted the principle that ‘people like us’ deserve more." explained the authors.

The term "social apartheid " was used by Dr Anthony Seldon in 2008, headmaster of Wellington College, to describe independent schools as "detached from mainstream education, thereby perpetuating the apartheid which has so dogged education and national life in Britain since the Second World War".

The NatCen survey shines a light on the widespread presence of privately educated officials in Britain. "Across the government as a whole two-thirds of ministers were privately educated", the authors revealed, suggesting the impact this has on mainstream politics.

"If the education system – as the moulding social influence on the lives and minds of young people – enshrines the kind of separate development where the future leaders of society are educated apart from the people they will later govern or judge, then warning bells should probably sound."

  • 63% of privately educated individuals see themselves as middle or upper-middle class compared to 24% of state educated
  • 60% of the state educated believe there is "one law for the rich, and one law for the poor"
  • One in five privately educated are in the top 10% of income distribution

Penny Young, Chief Executive of NatCen Social Research, comments:

"In a time of economic austerity and social unrest, the big question coming out of this year's report is whether we really are in it together, or just in it for ourselves? An emerging sense of self-reliance may take the government some way toward its vision of a more responsible society, but an emphasis on individualism, not Big Society collectivism, may present as much of a challenge as it does an opportunity."