Figures updated at 1000, Friday 14th February

Members of Boris Johnson’s new cabinet are nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general population, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust published today. 65% were educated at fee-paying schools, while 27% went to a comprehensive and 8% attended a grammar school.

This proportion of alumni of independent schools is the same as in Johnson’s previous cabinet (64%). However it is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet (30%), slightly more than Cameron’s 2015 cabinet (50%) and the same as the 2010 coalition cabinet (62%).

The proportion of cabinet ministers educated at comprehensive schools remains the same, at 27%. The Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary were among those educated at state schools.

The proportion of independently educated ministers attending Cabinet is less than earlier cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91% in 1979). Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both had 32% of those attending cabinet privately educated, while 25% of Clement Attlee’s first cabinet had been privately educated.

Of the 26 ministers attending Boris Johnson’s new cabinet (at 1000, Friday 14th February), half (50%) went to Oxford or Cambridge universities. This compares with 27% of all Conservative MPs, 18% of Labour MPs and 24% of all MPs. A further 8% of Johnson’s cabinet were educated at other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge). 31% of the new cabinet went through a ‘pipeline’ from fee-paying schools to Oxbridge.

Boris Johnson continues the academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to before the start of World War 2: except for Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1937 who attended university was educated at one institution – Oxford.

Parliamentary Privilege 2019 – a major piece of research surveying the education backgrounds of the House of Commons – showed that 29% of current MPs in the House of Commons come from a private school background. In the Conservative party, two-fifths (41%) of MPs attended an independent school, compared to 14% in the Labour party.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said:

“December’s election led to a seismic shift in the political landscape. The falling of the red wall means Conservative MPs now represent a much more diverse range of constituencies than before, with constituents from many different socio-economic backgrounds.

“Yet in terms of educational background, the make-up of Johnson’s cabinet is still over 60% from independent schools. Today’s findings underline how unevenly spread the opportunities are to enter the elites and this is something Boris Johnson must address.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • These figures were updated at 1000 on Friday 14th Feb. Suella Braverman had previously been categories as attending a comprehensive when she in fact went to a fee-paying school.
  • Information on the education of cabinet members was taken primarily from public sources, such as candidates’ campaign web pages. The school and university backgrounds were obtained by using a number of publicly available sources, such as Who’s Who and MPs’ websites.
  • School category was defined as where the individual spent most of their secondary school years, and university where they completed their first undergraduate degree.
  • Parliamentary Privilege 2019, published by the Sutton Trust in December 2019, can be accessed here.

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