Private education

Chapter summary: Private education

Private schools and public divisions: the influence of fee-paying education on social attitudes

Senior figures within the state apparatus such as politicians, judges and civil servants are disproportionately educated at private schools. Some claim private schooling perpetuates a form of social segregation; this chapter explores and contributes to this debate by examining whether being educated privately affects people’s political attitudes and values.

There are differences between the views of the privately and state educated that cannot be explained by differences in where they come from (for example parental income) and where they are now (for example current income).

  • 63% of the privately educated see themselves as middle or upper middle class compared with only 24% of the state educated. Even when we account for upbringing and current income and occupational status, the privately educated are nearly twice as likely as their state counterparts to describe themselves as middle class.
  • 60% of the state educated think there is “one law for the rich, and one law for the poor”, compared with 44% of the privately educated. These differences are reduced, but cannot wholly be explained by family background and current social status.
  • Since 1986, support for the Conservatives has averaged 51% among the privately educated, but only 29% among the state educated.

Going to university seems to reduce some of these differences. The gap between the views of the state and privately educated is smaller among graduates than among non-graduates.

  • Since 1986, support for the Conservatives has averaged 56% among privately-educated non-graduates, compared with 29% among state-educated non-graduates. Among graduates the gap is much smaller; 38% of the privately educated support the Conservatives, compared with 25% of their state-educated counterparts.

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