PROPORTION OF PRIVATELY EDUCATED CABINET MEMBERS HIGHER THAN IN BORIS JOHNSON’S CABINETS

Members of Liz Truss’s new cabinet are over nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general population, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust published today. 68% were educated at fee-paying schools, while 19% went to a comprehensive and 10% attended a grammar school.

This proportion of alumni of independent schools is higher than Boris Johnson’s first cabinet (64%). It is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet (30%), and more than both Cameron’s 2015 cabinet (50%) and the 2010 coalition cabinet (62%).

The proportion of cabinet ministers educated at comprehensive schools is lower than Johnson’s first cabinet, at 19% compared to Johnson’s 27%. The Prime Minister herself was comprehensively educated, but some of those heading up key departments – including the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary – are among those educated at independent 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’s cabinets were both 32% privately educated, while 25% of Clement Attlee’s first cabinet had been privately educated.

Of the 31 ministers attending Liz Truss’s new cabinet (at 1000, Wednesday 7 September 2022), 35% went to Oxford or Cambridge universities. This compares with 27% of all Conservative MPs, 18% of Labour MPs and 21% of all MPs. 29% of Truss’s cabinet were educated at other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge). 26% of the new cabinet went through a ‘pipeline’ from fee-paying schools to Oxbridge.

Truss continues the academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to the start of World War 2: except for Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1940 who attended university was educated at Oxford.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: 

“In Liz Truss’s new cabinet, 68% went to private schools – almost 10 times the number in the general population. 

“Truss continues the academic dynasty at No10 that stretches back to the start of World War II: except for Gordon Brown, every Prime Minister since 1940 who went to university went to Oxford. 

“Liz Truss has pitched herself as the ‘education prime minister’, representing a potentially exciting opportunity to improve the school system and opportunities for children and young people across the country. 

“Yet in terms of educational background, the make-up of her cabinet is less representative than that of her predecessor, with over two-thirds from independent schools. Today’s findings underline how unevenly spread opportunities to enter the most prestigious positions continue to be. Making the most of talent, regardless of their background, must be a priority.” 

NOTES TO EDITORS 

  • 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. 

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