Four in ten top scientists went to private school

CHILDREN who go to private school are more likely to be successful in careers such as science, claims a new study.

Four in ten of the UK's leading scientists attended private school, despite the sector educating just 7 per cent of UK children, according to research by the Sutton Trust.

The educational charity analysed the school and university backgrounds of more than 1,700 of the 2,200 Fellows of the Royal Society and the British Academy. It found 42 per cent of those with known UK school backgrounds went to fee-paying schools.

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Just ten private schools produced over 10 per cent of the Fellows, and three – Eton College, Winchester College and St Paul's – each had at least 20 Fellows.

According to the research 32 per cent of MPs, 70 per cent of judges, 54 per cent of journalists and 51 per cent of medics went to a private school.

The study also found that 56 per cent of the Fellows went to either Oxford or Cambridge universities.

And it predicts that current private school pupils are up to five times more likely to achieve top grades in science exams.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "This is yet more evidence of the uneven life chances in Britain.

"Students from the independent sector, which educates just 7 per cent of children, are substantially more likely to reach the top of our most coveted professions and succeed in influential walks of life.

"It must be a priority to provide today's bright non- privileged young people with equivalent chances to their better-off peers, so they can make the most of their talents."

The British Academy acknowledged there was a disparity in opportunities offered at state and private schools.

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Robin Jackson, chief executive of the British Academy, said: "Election to the Fellowship of the British Academy is based on academic excellence alone, with a selection process blind as to school attended.

"However, we note this report with interest. The academy itself highlighted the difficulties facing state school pupils in our recent policy report on the serious decline in modern language learning."

The academy launched a report in June this year, drawing attention to what it described as "alarming implications" of declining study in foreign languages.

The British Academy was established by Royal Charter in 1902 to champion and support the humanities and social sciences.

It aims to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement across the UK and internationally.

Only one or two scholars a year are elected to the academy in most fields.

How one man's dream was realised

ONE fee-paying school that produced many of Scotland's greatest scientists, engineers and architects was Allan Glen's in Glasgow.

It was set up in 1853 to provide a practical education to the sons of tradesmen, and was funded by the estate of businessman Allan Glen, who had stipulated the move in his will.

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It became the principal Scottish science school and was later nicknamed the High School of Science.

Although it was an independent fee-paying school, the charges on wealthier parents were used to enable boys from all social backgrounds to attend.

In 1887, it amalgamated with Anderson's College to become a feeder institution for higher scientific education in Glasgow, and the following year it moved into new premises. But changes in the way education was funded in Scotland led the school's board to agree to it falling under state control in 1911.

It was eventually merged with a state school and became a comprehensive, before being closed in 1989.

Its famous pupils included:

• Professor Kenneth Calman, chief medical officer of health for England and Wales and chair of Calman Commission.

• Sir Alan Langlands, principal and vice-chancellor of Dundee University and former NHS chief executive.

• Charles Rennie Mackintosh, architect and designer of Glasgow School of Art.

• Sir James McNeill, designer of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth liners.

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• Professor James AJ Bennett, who pioneered helicopter flight.

• Don Cameron, whose firm created the balloon that completed the first non-stop, round-the-world flight.