Headmaster of Matt Hancock’s former school criticises idea companies should ask job applicants whether they went to private school

The Telegraph, 31.05.16, HMC member Chris Ramsey, headmaster of Matt Hancock's former school (leading independent The King's School, Chester) has written a letter to the minister attacking his "wrong headed" proposals to force employers to check whether applicants went to private school.  

The letter emerged as heads of some of the most selective private schools branded the proposals as 'simplistic' as they attacked the Government of having had 'little positive impact on social mobility'.

Last week the Cabinet Office minister suggested firms ask a set of questions allowing them to check  the 'socio economic background of those applying for jobs in an effort to stop discrimination against the poor.

But Chris Ramsey, head of King's School, where Mr Hancock was a pupil, wrote to the minister criticising his proposals.

In the letter, seen by the Daily Telegraph, Mr Ramsey said he was 'dismayed' by Mr Hancock's suggestions.

He wrote: "You must know, as an Old King’s Scholar, that having been educated at an independent school is not of itself an indicator of social advantage."

Separately, Mr Ramsey also said: "Well, I have more justification than some in taking issue with Matt Hancock, since he is an alumnus of the school whose Head I am. He’s an intelligent, charming and generous political rising star, but I think he has jumped on a bandwagon which has, to mix my metaphors, passed its sell-by date. He also said a student is not defined by their background.

He explained: "To give two obvious examples, why should a full-bursary student from a disadvantaged background, educated at, say, Christ’s Hospital School (an independent school with a noble tradition of social diversity), be categorised with a full fee-payer at, say, Eton? Or pitted against the ‘state educated’ middle-class pupil at, say, The Judd School or London Oratory, two schools with noble and impressive traditions of high academic performance and some very wealthy people in their parent body?"

He added: "The minister’s suggested approach – the use of ‘school type’ as a spurious proxy for ‘advantage’ - may be well-meaning, but it is shallow and thoughtless. If he had suggested that application forms should ask candidates to clarify whether they are black or white, or male or female, there would quite rightly been outrage. What he suggests is no less wrong-headed."

Mr Ramsey's comments emerged as other representatives of the private sector strongly opposed Mr Hancock's proposals following threats from the Provost of Eton College, Lord Waldegrave, to quit the Conservative if he believed the Government was 'actively seeking to damage' his school.

Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) said her group of schools, which include some of the most elite schools in the country, including St Pauls, Eton and Winchester, disagree with employers asking applicants where they went to school.

She said: "We feel it creates a new form of discrimination because it is assuming that school type is a proxy for advantage and life isn't that simple. There are many factors that contribute how successful someone is. It's very simplistic to assume that school type gives you an idea of advantage.

"Its discriminatory because you're criticising a child for the decision that child's parents made of school choice. They should be focusing on the high-expectations culture of all schools of all kinds.

"A lot of pupils who come out of independent schools went into those schools from state-funded schools on bursaries, scholarships throughout. So you're creating problems for children who deserve an advantage."

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