UK Politics

Eton chief attacks plan to make jobseekers reveal private schooling

Lord William Waldegrave Image copyright Joshua Tucker
Image caption Lord William Waldegrave served under Lady Thatcher and John Major

The provost of David Cameron's old school, Eton College, has attacked his proposals to ask job candidates if their parents paid for their education.

Former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Waldegrave said it was wrong to "punish children" for decisions made by their parents.

The plan to ask job applicants if they went to private school is part of the PM's push to improve "life chances".

The Cabinet Office said the plan would be voluntary.

But Lord Waldegrave, who served under Lady Thatcher and John Major and is now the Crown-appointed head of Eton's governing body, has threatened to quit the Conservative Party if the government pushes ahead with it.

'Wider community'

He told the Daily Telegraph: "Fundamentally, I think it quite wrong to punish children for decisions taken by their parents, and to run the risk of choosing crucial public service jobs not on the basis of merit but of social engineering. The ablest candidates come from all possible backgrounds.

"I have told the chief whip in the Lords that I do not see how I could continue to accept the whip if I believed that the government was actively seeking to damage the charitable school of which I am a trustee, and the many other schools like it which are meeting the justifiable demands of the Charity Commission to help the wider community."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Eton College says it helps 20% of pupils with the cost of fees

Eton College, a boys-only boarding school, which also counts former London mayor Boris Johnson among its former pupils, charges £12,354 a term but it says 21% of pupils receive financial support towards their fees through bursaries.

David Cameron has frequently defended his privileged background, saying he was fortunate to attend one of Britain's top schools and he wants all children in the UK to have the same chances in life.

Other proposals in his "life chances" agenda include forcing top universities to publish the proportion of ethnic minority applicants who secure places, and giving more support to children leaving local authority care.

Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock is drawing up proposals to allow companies and recruiters to check the "socio-economic background" of those applying for jobs.

'Social mobility'

The idea is to be tried out on applicants for Civil Service jobs initially.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We are fully committed to increasing social mobility, and building a Civil Service that represents the country that it serves.

The proposals we have outlined to measure social background are part of a broad consultation and no legislation is being put forward.

"While voluntary, we are already hugely encouraged by the number of businesses that are grasping this and helping us to shape these measures and therefore enhance social mobility.

"Our whole approach is about levelling up, not denying opportunities to anyone. This is about measuring how well we make the most of the talent of everyone in the UK, no matter their background."

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