The inequalities education can bring seem to have always been speculated and questioned by both academics and government as well and the public. The question of whether privately educated students stand a better chance of gaining university entry to top universities, or any university at all, as well as securing the top job roles in the UK. In the nineteenth century the British business classes would send twice as many of its sons to Cambridge (Halsey, et al.
, 1980), this suggests that those coming from a state educated background were less likely to secure a place at The University of Cambridge and that perhaps “talented children from the working class are denied the opportunity to develop their abilities” (Halsey, et al., 1980, p. 4).In the mid 1900’s England’s school system, where places are reserved for children whose parents have larger bank accounts, did not exist on the same scale in any other country (Halsey, et al., 1980), by some it was seen as the most ‘divisive, unjust and wasteful aspects of social equality’ (Archer, et al., 2013, p. 36).
The nature of a child’s education and in some ways career too was determined by the financial circumstances of their parent, the participation rates for the lower socioeconomic groups remain lower in England than in most other western countries (Archer, et al., 2013). Halsey (1980) shows evidence of the increasing equality of opportunity in gaining access to private primary education in the time of his research; however the issue is not the equality of opportunity to private education but the equality of opportunity having had a private education itself. Many students may be able to obtain a private education and choose not to or they may in fact take the opportunity, but this is still creating a disadvantage to those who have not obtained this type of education, as it is not the case that every single student will gain a private education- therefore there will always be a sense of disadvantage. Thus once again the question of scrapping the private sector of education is raised.
If no such sector was to exist then it is speculated whether such an inequality would exist. Christopher Jencks, an American social scientist, believed that equalizing educational opportunities would do little to bring about equality for adults. He thought that school should be treated as an end in itself, not a means to another end and concluded that school differences seem to have little effect on ‘any measurable attribute of those who attend them’ (Halsey, et al., 1980, p. 210). The matter is then raised of whether attending a private institution is really as beneficial as it is considered to be, as the way in which some private schools may operate and teach the students to act could largely differ to the reality of the world around them. The lack of creativity in the curriculum for example could prove difficult when it comes to job roles or interviews and their ability to socialise effectively. Participation in university among young working class people had remained persistently low at the time of Louise Archer’s research (2013) compared to almost all young people from the middle class going on to study at university.
This is mainly due to the economic disadvantage of the working class as well as other causes. It is also linked to the information and awareness this class had (Or perhaps still has), as ‘working class people were never encouraged to see higher education as something available to them’ (Archer, et al., 2013, p. 14). It was also shown that middle class parents were likely to pass on cultural and material advantages, which would enable their children to succeed within the education system and with climbing the career ladder. Whereas for working class students they found it important to feel like they fitted in and felt comfortable at an institution, this could dissuade them from applying to the most prestigious universities unlike applicants who have been brought up to apply there, as these institutions entry requirements encouraged applicants from particular class groups.
It is said that the sense of ‘belonging’ within an elite university will not be established until the ‘preserve of traditional students’ (Archer, et al., 2013, p. 197) is no longer. It was only until the early twentieth century that Latin and Greek become no longer necessary for university admission, which had enabled only those who had attended a small particular set of schools considerable for admission (Archer, et al., 2013). In a study of full time university students from 1960-95 three quarters of students were middle class and one quarter working class, showing that an applicant from a privileged school or social background had much higher chances of gaining a university place compared to a more underprivileged applicant (Archer, et al.