Interesting exchange between Badminton-educated Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol North West, and Andy Burnham during the Education Bill debate today. Judging from her response – shaking her head, trying to intervene again – she thought Andy just didn’t get her point. I thought his response was spot on.
Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the massive gap between state education and private education in securing the top jobs in this country? Does he recognise that private schools offer more academic qualifications and that by not enabling state schools to offer those academic qualifications he is essentially relegating state school pupils from those top jobs?
Andy Burnham: I do not accept the hon. Lady’s analysis. I went from a state school to Cambridge and my dad said to me, “It will open every door for you in life. You will just walk into any job you want.” He said that because I took some persuading to go, as I was not convinced that it would be for me. My dad was wrong, because it did not open every door. It is the networks and the conversations around the dinner party table that open the doors to those top jobs. I am talking about the people who can sort out two weeks’ work experience in the holiday period, because that is what gets people through. What further restricts opportunities for young people is the culture of unpaid internships, where young people are expected to come to London to work for free. That is beyond the reach of many working-class young people in this country, who simply cannot afford to work for free for three months in London. That is what ensures that the top jobs remain in the reach of a small social circle, as the BBC creatively and accurately reported last week.