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MPs Call for Action as Small Number of State Secondaries Produce Majority of State-Educated Candidates for Top Jobs


State-educated applicants to jobs at the most sought-after law firms, banks and FTSE 100 companies come almost exclusively from an elite set of schools, with more than 1,000 of Britain’s state secondary schools producing no applicants at all for the highest-rated graduate schemes, according to research carried out by Rare, a diversity recruitment specialist.

The data has prompted calls from MPs for urgent action (below) and suggests that the traditional split between independent and state schools is not the only “dividing line” in British education. There is also an unrecognised apartheid within the UK’s state school system – raising serious questions for government, employers and schools alike about how to ensure fair life chances for the country’s young people.

Grammar schools and a select few comprehensives account for most state-educated applicants to top graduate employers – a new metric of social mobility pioneered by Rare, which specialises in placing talented youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds into the best universities and jobs. Rare has collected data on the number of graduate applications to top firms from all the schools in the UK.

The Company’s Measures that Matter report reveals that just 10 per cent of Britain’s 3,400 state secondaries (including grammars) produce 53 per cent of the applicants to prestigious graduate schemes. Of these elite state schools, just one per cent account for 11 per cent of all applicants to top firms. Meanwhile, 34 per cent of state schools produce no applicants at all.

Crucially, the state schools producing the most candidates for high-powered graduate schemes are not always the best academically. Rare’s research has identified a number of top-rated academic schools that produce few or no candidates to the highest-ranked jobs – a surprising disconnect which underlines the apparent need for closer ties between schools and potential employers.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee met on Wednesday for hearings on efforts to help young people entering the workplace. MPs commented on Rare’s findings.

Lucy Powell MP, Select Committee member, said:

“Social mobility isn’t about plucking a tiny few from the council estate to the Cabinet table, it’s about ensuring there is an escalator of opportunity for everyone throughout their lives. Everyone should have the same educational opportunities regardless of birth or background. There is no excuse in this day and age for a system that creates preferential treatment to a minority of elite, well-connected schools. We need real careers advice to ensure opportunities are open to all.”

Liberal Democrat education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

“This is a very welcome report, confirming that there are inherent inequalities in the state school system that must be urgently addressed. These inequalities are not just deeply unfair on pupils, but also a drag on the economy. Businesses are missing out on potentially brilliant recruits because of an outdated education system that must be reformed.”

The data has been collected through Rare’s Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) which hardwires social mobility metrics into companies’ existing graduate recruitment databases.

Raph Mokades, Founder and MD of Rare, said:

“This research is a call to arms for everyone who wants to see our country’s children achieve their potential.

“Government and policymakers need to focus not on selective schools but on the vast majority of non-selective schools where talented youngsters are not getting a fair chance. Clever kids ideally require enhanced and ambitious careers services, not just a good academic education. And employers need to recognise that there is a deep pool of proven talent out there, which they’re not exploring at all.

“A small number of high performing state schools are streaks ahead of the rest. Their success lies beyond academics, rooted in extensive careers provision which propels their alumni into elite careers.

“Government, schools and employers need to work together to close this gap. We need to improve careers advice, broaden extra-curricular opportunities and increase outreach to bright students attending schools with very low application rates.”

Further details:

  • The 20 elite state schools providing the most applications to tier-one graduate employers comprise 16 selective grammar schools and four comprehensive schools (names and further details below)
  • In some cases, even when comprehensive schools perform as well, or better, than those in the top 20, their students are still less likely to apply to top firms
  • Of the 20 elite state schools that produce the most applicants to top graduate schemes, 12 are in London

The Coopers’ Company and Coburn School, rated “Good” by Ofsted, produces a disproportionately high number of applicants to top firms (70 applications per year), given the schools’ relatively poor academic performance (C grade average at A Level). Comparatively, the Weal of Kent Grammar School, rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted, generated just five applicants to top firms in [date], despite the school ranking in the 96th percentile for A Level scores (average B grade).

This difference can be heavily attributed to the quality of careers provision at each school. The Coopers’ Company and Coburn School describes its careers service as “amongst the best in the country” with close ties to international businesses including EY, KPMG and PwC. In contrast, schools with no or few applicants often have underdeveloped career provisions. They also receive little outreach from top firms, which explains the clear geographical bias towards London and the South-East.


Chris is a digital marketing and publishing whizz by trade, having worked alongside the Automotive, Information Security and Software Asset Management sectors.

Specialising in data analysis and social media, he combines an analytical approach with a creative flair to achieve the best results. With a keen interest in Technology and Politics, Chris is constantly on the look-out for the latest stories around change and innovation.

As a lover of all things innovative, he has developed a keen eye for spotting the latest trends and hot topics. He sources and reads the latest news and thought-leadership articles from the world of recruitment before sharing them with the social media population.


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