Home > General > Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain

Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain

Watched this program last night. It was about why an increasing number of the political elite went to public school. Obviously because they’ve had a better education than those dependent on the State system. Simples !!

Good argument for bringing back grammar schools…no chance of that.

Link to iPlayer  http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/y37gk/

Categories: General
  1. Boadicea
    January 27, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Would love to watch this Jazz, but the Beeb won’t let us ‘furriners’ watch their programmes. We can listen to the radio – but not watch TV.

  2. January 27, 2011 at 10:16 am

    “Not available in your area”
    Probably just as well!! 🙂

  3. January 27, 2011 at 10:27 am

    From a news article I read researching who was responsible for the closure of Grammar schools, that the previous Labour Education Minister Lord Adonis conceded the closure of grammar schools in the 1960s and 1970s was a backward step that “reinforced class divisions” rather than helping those less well off. The comments were a stunning repudiation of the ‘one size fits all’ education policies which Labour clung to for decades and many MPs still support. His words effectively admit that Labour has failed an entire generation of schoolchildren.

    Academically selective schooling came to be seen as somehow against the Proletariat, whereas in fact it provided the avenue to potential success for academically-gifted, poorer children. There seems to have been a desire to reduce everyone in the State Education sector, regardless of intelligence, to the same bland formula, of ill-disciplined overcrowded classrooms, churning out children at 16, many of whom seem to have barely mastered reading, writing and arithmetic.

    Is it not ironic that in an almost Marxist attempt to lower everyone to the same level, Labour should have destroyed the avenue for success of the more gifted poorer children in our society?

    Of course Public schooling may provide invaluable contacts in later life, but then so does Union membership for Labour party activists. It is ludicrous to suggest that networking is an exclusive preserve of old Etonians. Douglas Hurd’s comment is apposite that Cameron is Prime Minister not because he went to Eton, but because he is intelligent. “He was standing for the leadership of the Tory party not some demented Marxist outfit”, so having been to England’s leading Public School, should not and did not prove a barrier to employment. As Andrew Neil said, having had the best education that money can buy shouldn’t disqualify anyone from high office. I wonder what is it about the English – that envy of those more fortunate – which triggers such poisonous commentary about the fortunate few, who have had the benefit of “the best education which money can buy” – it is certainly not an attractive trait, and seemingly absent largely, in the States, where they seem to celebrate others’ success to a far greater extent, rather than trying to pull them down to their own levels of ambition.

  4. January 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Boa/Bearsy – there may be some way of recording these and re-issuing on youtube, at least until they catch on, and block them – Any techies out there capable of obliging?

  5. January 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I’ll drink to that, CWJ, with a few minor quibbles.
    (being one of the “more gifted poorer children”.)

  6. January 27, 2011 at 10:36 am

    No probs, CWJ, we can always go through a proxy server if we need to. The material will probably appear soon on our ABC site (which is not available to you guys). These broadcasters have not really caught up with the ramifications of the internet and global freedom of speech. 🙂

  7. January 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Bearsy, can you get i-player? The programme is worth watching, though thoroughly sickening.

  8. Four-eyed English Genius
    January 27, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Boadicea :

    Would love to watch this Jazz, but the Beeb won’t let us ‘furriners’ watch their programmes. We can listen to the radio – but not watch TV.


    Try something like this. There are others if you Google for “uk free proxy server”


    That should let you see the BBC. There are also some commercial proxy servers that tend to be a bit more reliable, that cost the equivalent of about £5 per month. My son uses one to view the BBC and ITV from the States.

  9. Four-eyed English Genius
    January 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

    It should be noted that Mara get Thatcher said in 1977 “People from my sort of background needed Grammar schools to compete with children from privileged homes like Shirley Williams and Anthony Wedgwood Benn.”. However, she did nothing to reverse the trend of closing grammar schools. Mine became an independent school in 1976. As usual, even a politician as powerful as her could not disturb the equanimity of the left-wing educational establishment.

    The only political party in the UK who say they will bring back grammar schools is UKIP, but they will have to dismantle the whole education system first. Not a bad idea, BTW!

  10. Four-eyed English Genius
    January 27, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Four-eyed English Genius :

    Nine became an independent school in 1976.

    Double, triple quadruple BUM! Nine = MINE. Makes more sense now. It was a damn sight more than nine that disappeared around that time.
    Correction made – Bearsy. 😆

  11. sheona
    January 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    it has always seemed to me that Labour wanted to dumb down the education system deliberately, presumably to provide themselves with less educated and therefore more malleable ballot fodder. This would explain why so many Labour MPs send their own children to private schools too. Having lived in Buckinghamshire, we were lucky enough to still have grammar schools. There was also the possibility of able pupils from the secondary modern schools transferring to the grammar schools too. It is amazing how the left-wingers manage to overlook private education within their own ranks, people like Tony Blair or Ed Balls, while turning their fury on the privately educated members of other parties.

  12. January 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Andrew Neil of course had a pretty good education at Paisley Grammar before it became a BSC. Neil visited his old school and I was amused to hear the headmistress defending the comprehensive system. She didn’t get were she is today by criticising it, and had she admitted to camera that perhaps the school had been better as a grammar her career would have nosedived.

    Mrs J has some close family members who teach, they think the Scottish education system has been wrecked in the same way that it was in England (and now NI). However they keep their criticisms sotto voce, life is made uncomfortable for dissidents.

    My own inclination would be to (a) reduce school size to 250 pupils maximum and to allow children to stay at the same school from age 5 to 17. It would be expensive of course but fairer (NB fairness ≠ equality).

  13. January 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Jazz, I am not convinced that school size is as important as class size. I don’t recollect in the private system every having been in a class larger than 12, maybe fifteen, in the younger years, and for A-levels, some of the sets were 8-10 pupils, depending on subject chosen. But that costs money to offer those sort of ratios. I am not surprised that class sizes of 25-30 can turn into bearpits, when you are no longer permitted to cane recalcitrant hooligans, and God forbid the little darlings should be denied their freedom of expression. Even for my postgraduate degree, although lectures could include up to 45 students, our study groups were split into five or six, maximum, for the very good reason that it has been found this number allows for the most effective exchange of ideas, allowing everyone to have their say.
    I am not sure what element it is you think of as fair, in leaving children in the same institution from 5-17.
    I am aware that there were concerns at Gordonstoun for example, now that they have brought the preparatory school (7-13 year olds) which had been separated geographically, previously, on to the same campus. These issues stem round the relative maturities/immaturities of the pre-teenage and teenage groups of children. Even on the same campus, whilst they attend chapel together in the mornings, much of the rest of the day is spent separately, and they sleep in entirely separate “houses”. If you meant that children grow to know each other in the same age group, as they advance through the education system, this was achieved previously by most “public schools” having feeder preparatory shcools, the bulk of whose pupils, provided they could pass the common Entrance examinations, went on to the same school. IIs this the benefit you were implying in “fairness”? I don’t see any fairness in disallowing brighter pupils to progress to an institution where their intelligence can be allowed to shine without the encumbrance of being surrounded by a bunch of “dummies” – i.e. the now defunct Grammar schools for instance.

  14. January 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm


  15. O Zangado
    January 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    What gets my fur frizzy is that socialistas and social engineers back in the sixties reviled the eleven plus, which if nothing else was egalitarian – background made no difference. If you passed you went to grammar school; if you failed you went to a secondary modern wheresoever whence you came. End of.

    Comprehensive schooling, like the NHS, is a top heavy, bureaucratic, lowest commom denominator failed experiment and is badly in need of replacing. Anyone who disagrees has only to ask themselves why parents would waste ten large or more of net income per child per term for a public school if the state system were any good. The same argument applies to private health insurance, and don’t forget these parents and potential patients have already paid huge amounts of tax and national insurance to prop up a monolithic and rapacious state sector.

    And breathe!


  16. January 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I went to a secondary modern (it was really old fashioned but there) I had the chance of grammar but flunked the 11 plus. I believe in grammar schools and private schools and see no problems with either.

    I never saw the programme, but from the trailers it focussed on Tories and Libs and forgot the private schools of the labour elite (Blair, Brown and more). But then the programme was on the Biased Broadcasting Company.

  17. January 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The eleven plus was an unfair exam. Categorizing kids at eleven years of age was crazy. I don’t see anything wrong with the comprehensive idea, but it’s compromised by the the current, politically correct, bureaucratic shambles.

    As I understand it the Grammar School, Secondary Modern System was the brainchild of Rab Butler and was dreamt up during WW2. However the original concept involved three types of school not two. These were Grammar, Technical and Secondary. Guess what? There wasn’t enough cash so the academic types lucked out and everyone else went to a Secondary Modern. IOW it was a screw up …no surprises there then.

    As far as I can see the only thing wrong with the Public School system is that it’s too expensive.

  18. O Zangado
    January 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hiya, Jazz, and only because I’m feeling particularly conbative this evening, why was the eleven plus unfair? The children of those who could afford it were already at prep-school and everyone else was in the state system (myself included), a supposedly level playing field from age 5 to 11. The only decision is at what age do you start segregating? Seven? Eleven? After ‘O’ levels, or when some 22-year-old 2:2 media studies graduate form the ‘University’ of Skegness with £35,000 of debt as a result walks into their first job interview, never having failed a thing in his or her life, and gets knocked back?

    As the desk sergeant in Hill Street Blues used to say, “Let’s be careful out there, people.”



  19. January 27, 2011 at 6:53 pm


    Perhaps it’s something to do with the ‘supposedly’ level playing field which cannot possibly be level. Children mature at different ages and to subject them to a test as arbitrary as the 11plus at that age was nuts. If Butler’s original plan had been put into place things might have been better.

    I did common entrance at 13 that was bad enough although it was a far more errr… comprehensive exam then the eleven plus which which made it fairer…..but only of your folks could afford it.

  20. January 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    OZ, it may been some years since you paid school fees – Gordonstoun is now £18,000 p.a. per child, with no discount for more than one! Fortunately of our three, we only ever had two in the senior section at a time. More fortunately, I had an employer(s) overseas, who paid me sufficiently to cover this burden, or subsidised it directly.
    Incidentally, how widely known is it that members of the Armed Forces, OF ALL RANKS I believe, are provided with subsidised boarding school education for their children when serving overseas, and in some cases this continues through their posting back to the UK, if the child is at a critical stage of its education?
    There is a common, mistaken belief that all children who attend private boarding schools must come from wealthy families – this is certainly not the case. A great number are from families whose parents’ employment is overseas, and where the employer, in one way or another, subsidises the cost of educating their children, in order to keep that employee in the function they require him to fulfill overseas.
    The private sector equivalent of the Eleven Plus, is the Common Entrance Examinations, taken at about 13. Another misconception is that you can force-feed an education to a dummy at a private school. What doesn’t seem to be realized is that competition for places is extremely fierce partially as a result of the appalling record of the state sector, so the pre-entry testing is rigorous, to ensure they do not take on anyone who will lower their rankings in the league tables. Similarly failure to obtain the minimum levels at GCSE Ordinary levels, will preclude entry into the Advanced Level stream.

  21. O Zangado
    January 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Jazz – in the real world it would go like this:-

    “Sorry, computer says No.”

    “Yebbut….nobbut….yebbut, i have a 2;2 in meedya studies from the University of Skegness.”

    “No matter. The job has gone to the guy with the first in Classics from Merton College, Oxford.”

    “But I’m not mature yet. You’ve got to hold the job for me”

    “Sorry, we have a business to run. Next!” Ding!


    As I said earlier, let’s be careful out there.

    CWJ – What??? 18 large a year? Per child? Oooh, that’s gotta smart!

    I have no problem whatsoever with members of HM Forces serving in hot, sandy places having their childrens’ education subsidised.

    “There is a common, mistaken belief that all children who attend private boarding schools must come from wealthy families” Not in my family, there isn’t. i still remember vividly the threadbare stair carpet, the holidays under canvas in Wales, Mum going back to work as soon as little brother and I were at school and Dad lecturing at an FE College in the evenings after a full day at work, all to pay the fees.


  22. sheona
    January 27, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    As you say, can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears and private education cannot insert more intelligence into a child. I remember the very snotty couple who removed their son from the state primary school all my kids went to – the sort with a real headmistress and staff keen to do their best for the pupils – to send him to the local prep school because he would “never pass the 11+ if he stayed there”. Guess what, he didn’t pass anyway because he was not academically gifted. I just hope the parents let him do what he was good at rather than forcing him into something “suitable”.

  23. January 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    OZ, quite! I don’t want you breaking down in tears over this, but my parents lived so far away across the world, that they could afford flights to bring me back home to them only once a year, for the summer holidays, after paying the boarding fees. I leave the mothers amongst you to imagine the impact of waving goodbye to your seven-year-old child as he stumbled up the steps of an Inperial Airways aircraft, on a two day, unaccompanied flight to the UK, knowing you wouldn’t see him again until he was 8, and then only every year for a couple of months each summer.
    My kids claim they felt deprived only seeing us for each school holiday – they don’t begin to know how tough life was!

  24. January 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Inperial? Imperial!

  25. January 28, 2011 at 9:58 am


    “…….Incidentally, how widely known is it that members of the Armed Forces, OF ALL RANKS I believe, are provided with subsidised boarding school education for their children when serving overseas, and in some cases this continues through their posting back to the UK, if the child is at a critical stage of its education?……..”

    Absolutely right, that’s how I ended up at boarding school.

  26. January 28, 2011 at 10:18 am


    …”Jazz – in the real world it would go like this:-
    “Sorry, computer says No.”
    “Yebbut….nobbut….yebbut, i have a 2;2 in meedya studies from the University of Skegness.”
    “No matter. The job has gone to the guy with the first in Classics from Merton College, Oxford.”
    “But I’m not mature yet. You’ve got to hold the job for me”
    “Sorry, we have a business to run. Next!” Ding!

    I completely agree with you and that was not what I meant in #19, and I don’t require any lectures about the real world.
    It’s obvious that a 1.1 in classics from Oxford is better than a 2.2 in Media Studies from Skegness. BTW is there a university at Skegness? There might be, as the whole thing is now beyond parody. A more serious point is that a lot of not very bright people have been conned into thinking that wasting 3 or 4 years getting a not very good degree from a not very good university in a not very rigorous subject will guarantee them a job.

  27. January 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The BSA was limited and only given under fairly extreme conditions, as I remember.

  28. sheona
    January 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Indeed, Jazz, your comment points up the damage Blair and his government did to a lot of kids, with their “all must have prizes” idea that almost everyone should go to “uni”. It’s very sad to think of these poor souls and their disillusionment.

  29. January 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Charles Moore watched the program as well, I think his take on it is pretty accurate.

    Never have our politicians been posher, or more prolier-than-thou
    In these Darwinian days, it is the public schools that are producing the ruthless meritocrats, writes Charles Moore.
    Etonians playing the wall game Photo: Reuters
    By Charles Moore (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/)
    5:28PM GMT 28 Jan 2011
    Like, no doubt, millions, I was convinced by Andrew Neil’s argument on BBC 2 on Wednesday night that the public schools have regained control of British politics.
    The thesis of Posh and Posher was that the grammar schools gave bright, poor children – shining example, one A Neil – the best opportunity in British history to rise to the top. Now that most of the grammars have been destroyed, the private schools, maintaining their high standards, have easily beaten off the products of “the bog-standard comprehensive”. The Prime Minister is an Etonian. The Deputy Prime Minister went to Westminster. Reforms advanced in the name of equality have brought back an inequality not known for at least half a century.
    Neil’s programme was a form of autobiography, both boastful and poignant. Born in 1949, and brought up in a council house in Paisley, he went to Paisley Grammar and then the University of Glasgow. Before long he was editor of The Sunday Times, and now he is rich, and famous on television. He has, as he half- proudly confessed, a housekeeper and a driver. In Who’s Who, he lists his recreations as “dining out in New York, London, Dubai and the Côte d’Azur, cycling”.
    For the programme, though, he did not get on his bike. Off went the Neil Mercedes, with Andrew in the back, to visit his childhood home. He also looked in on his old school, which is now a comprehensive.
    His younger self, Neil told us, had been much stirred by the fact that Harold Wilson, a grammar school boy, beat the Old Etonian Alec Douglas-Home in the general election of 1964. Then came Heath, Wilson again, then Callaghan, Thatcher and Major, all from the state sector. True, an old Fettesian (A Blair) became prime minister in 1997, but his Cabinet was quite unposh, and he was succeeded by grammar- school Gordon. Now, though, the Labour front bench is Oxbridge-dominated, and the Coalition is posher still. “The meritocracy? It died… from a mixture of hypocrisy and neglect,” lamented Andrew Neil: we shall not look upon his like again.
    Top Tory: Cameron’s surrounded by ‘well-off’ (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/david- cameron/8277423/David-Cameron-surrounded-by-the-well-off.html)
    Your View: Does it matter if politics is posh? (http://my.telegraph.co.uk/groups/politics/forum/topic/does-it- matter-if-politics-is-posh/)
    How politics got ‘posh’ again (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/8277371/How-politics-got- posh-again.html)
    Being an Etonian, I might have expected myself to laugh in a nasty, snobbish sort of way at Andrew’s self- dramatisation, and quietly thank God that a gentleman is back in charge of our nation’s affairs; but what I actually felt was envy of the boy from Paisley. Andrew Neil can make a programme called Posh and Posher in which he, the representative of what he calls “plain folk”, can be the hero. Suppose I tried to make one called “Oik and Oikier”, in which I set out to establish that vulgar persons had taken over our culture, and that I was the chief surviving representative of high civilisation and good breeding. The tolerant would laugh at me, and the belligerent would cross the road to punch me on the nose.
    Yet my argument – if not my personal claim to heroic status – would be just as right as Neil’s. And this is the really odd thing about it all. The posh may be back in charge, but poshness is something they eschew. The terminal decline of the working class coincides with a culture which tries to be prolier-than-thou. Whether in their estuary accent, or swearing on television, or droning on about football, or drinking beer straight from the bottle, or wearing tattoos, well-educated people are behaving as they imagine “the street” behaves. (Actually, the poor old genuine working class tends to be much more polite.)
    I notice that George Osborne, the Chancellor (educ. St Paul’s and Oxford, and a scion of the firm of elegant soft furnishings) drops the Ts at the end of words like “cut” or “budget”. The lovely Samantha Cameron tries to talk as if she comes from Romford. Only the gorgeous Miriam Clegg speaks peerlessly posh English, and she, of course, is Spanish.
    Even members of the royal family say things like “Go, guys, go”, and some of the younger ones marry people who look like bouncers in Geordie nightclubs. In the programme, Andrew Neil produced the new Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as a prize exhibit of the returning posh. But Rees-Mogg, quoting Latin and bravely refusing to attempt any street cred whatever, is in fact completely exceptional. The typical representative of the new/old ruling class operates under camouflage, aping those beneath him in the social hierarchy.
    Until very recently, it was exactly the other way round. Margaret Thatcher, who did more than any other politician to storm the heights of privilege, dressed with exquisite care and spoke a carefully practised version of the Queen’s English. One reason that she remains such an icon in America is that she is seen as the embodiment of the gracious English lady. It is not, of course, that she sought to conceal that she was a grocer’s daughter: that was one of her great political selling points. It was rather that, in her demeanour, she deferred to an ideal of quality, excellence and class. This would now be considered ridiculous, particularly by people born with greater advantages than she.
    What is going on, then? I would say that Andrew Neil is right about public school revanchism, but not quite right about the death of the meritocracy. The public schools themselves have become far more meritocratic. When I was at Eton in the 1970s, a very large proportion of the boys came from landed families. Many were not, to put it mildly, ambitious. Some read only The Sporting Life, and that with difficulty. Today, their numbers at Eton have dwindled dramatically.
    The great public schools have become ruthless in finding the cleverest, sharpest pupils – often urban professional, often foreign, quite often, because of more bursaries, poor – and producing “winners”. The ideal of a gentleman, let alone of someone, in the famous phrase, “honourably ineligible for the struggle of life”, is much diminished. Everything is much more Darwinian. If the spirit of the age dictates that the public school pupil must defer to pseudo-proletarian values in order to gain and keep power and money, that is what he or she will be trained to do. And remember that most private schools, unlike state ones, are selective. A meritocratic system – a weeding out of duds – is always at work.
    So the problem with “privilege” today is not that the dear dimwits of old are getting jobs because of who Daddy was. It is rather that the international elites of the entire modern world are genuinely very able – which is not, of course, the same as saying they are good or right. Given the nature of modern politics, which is much more to do with dealing with lawyers and bureaucrats, attending international conferences and clever media handling than it is with representing one’s electors in Parliament, these elites are probably producing the right sort of people. Whether we really want to be governed in such a way is another matter.

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