Civil service fast stream favours private school applicants, says MP

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Guardian

Cabinet Office figures show rise in proportion of admissions from fee-paying schools, The Guardian reports.

The civil service’s elite fast-stream recruitment system disproportionately attracts and favours applicants from private school backgrounds, and has done so increasingly in recent years, the Labour MP Dan Jarvis has said.

Cabinet Office figures sent to Jarvis in response to parliamentary questions show that over the last four years of data, the proportion of private school applicants to the fast stream – the traditional route to top civil service jobs – was roughly a fifth, about three times the proportion who attend such schools in the UK.

The figures also show that even as the proportion of applicants from fee-paying schools fell slightly between 2013 and 2016 – from 20.5% to 18.9% – the percentage of successful applicants rose from 23.5% to 28.6%.

The civil service has attempted in recent years to become more inclusive in its fast-stream application process, which begins with online tests and generally takes months of assessments to complete.

Jarvis, the Barnsley Central MP, said the figures showed there was much more work to be done.

“Despite claiming that the fast stream uses ‘targeted outreach’ methods to attract applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds, young people from fee-paying schools are four times more overrepresented than those from state schools,” he said.

“Not only is this morally wrong, but recruitment bias in favour of the privately educated reduces the pool of talent that the civil service fast stream recruits from; reduces the diversity of experience and opinion in its leadership; and reduces the effectiveness of government decision-making.

“These figures show that the Conservative government is failing in its promise to deliver a more effective and representative civil service, and is instead accelerating the careers of the privileged few.”

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The Cabinet Office figures showed that in 2013, 20.5% of fast-stream applicants were from private school backgrounds, compared with 23.5% of successful candidates.

The equivalent figures for the following years were 19% applicants and 23% successful in 2014; 19.1% applicants and 25.2% successful in 2015; and 18.9% of the applicants and 28.6% of the successful entrants in 2016.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the fast-stream programme had won official commendation for its contribution to social mobility.

“We are working hard to continually improve the diversity of our recruitment processes and our summer diversity internship programme is just one example giving young people from diverse backgrounds an insight into the huge range of opportunities a career in the civil service offers,” she said.

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