Firms should break through the ‘class ceiling’

The Telegraph, 15.06.15, British companies should break through the “class ceiling” by hiring the best suitable people instead of focusing of those who went to the “right universities”, Sir Terry Leahy has said.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Sir Terry says many of Britain’s successful business leaders would not be employed had their companies used today’s strict criteria because of lacking a degree from a top university or lacking a degree altogether.

His comments emerged as new research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission showed working class applicants struggle to gain access to top jobs based on interviews with staff from 13 elite law, accountancy and financial services firm, which together employ 45,000 people in the UK.

The research showed that as much as 70 per cent of job offers last year were to graduates who had received selective state or fee-paying schooling, compared to four to seven per cent of the population as a whole.

Richard Harman, chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Headmaster of Uppingham School, said: “It is sensible to choose candidates from a wide range of criteria. It is hardly fair however to put a barrier in front of young people who have gained a top university place through sheer hard work and call that a posh test. In fact it is a skills test.

“Nearly 100 per cent of HMC schools are involved in widening access through bursaries and partnerships, and we work hard to ensure pupils in all schools benefit from our campaigns such as improving exam marking. However, we remain proud of what our pupils achieve in and out of the classroom and what they evidently bring to UK in a range of careers.

“The next step should be to have a conversation about attitude and soft skills. Our schools develop these well and they are crucial for success in life for all young people.”

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