Sutton Trust polling is cited by the Sunday Times Magazine in an interview with the rapper Professor Green, published ahead of his new documentary on white working class men.
Such statistics paint a picture Green knows intimately. He was an incredibly bright child who built his first PC aged 14 and taught himself graphic design. “The only thing I ever got wrong in my school reports was my attendance,” he grins. He believes his mathematical ability translated to rap, enabling him to piece words, rhythms and arguments together as if playing chess. Aged 11, a teacher singled him out to suggest he sat the entrance exam for St Paul’s — one of Britain’s most prestigious public schools, with fees up to £36,000 a year. Green refused. “It’s not for me, I don’t want to go there. No one like me goes there …” he says, mocking his own youthful cockney accent. “I would have felt uncomfortable,” he explains. “It’s crazy to think that, even at 11, I felt like I knew my place in the world.”
His reticence is not unusual, but endemic. A study by the Sutton Trust, a foundation working to improve social mobility in the UK, shows more than 40% of state-school secondary teachers “rarely or never” advised promising pupils to consider Oxbridge, a poverty of aspiration based on the same assumption Green made — that they won’t fit in. This is combined with a fear of debt and a long-held mistrust of education often inherited from parents.
“Even for middle-class kids, college and university is a normal part of life,” Green says, “whereas to be working-class — for a lot of my friends — it wasn’t on the cards, you just had to get out of school and start making money because you had to support yourself and, in some instances, you then have to support your family.”
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