I suppose I should declare a bit of an interest in the annual ritual that is the bashing of Oxford University as an institution run by elitist snobs who hate poor people, in that my daughter Olaf spent last week in the City of my birth facing interview panels. We will find out whether she has got in on or around 9 January. But the press, this week, has been all over Oxford as it emerged that, last year, eight of our poshest fee-paying schools managed to get more folks into Oxford last year than the bottom 75% of British schools.
Natch the same sort of folk who argue, on the basis of ignoring all the data provided, that Oxford admissions are racist lined up quickly to shout about what a disgrace this is and how Oxford must really get its act together. And needless to say Oxford did not bother to defend itself in a meaningful way but, again, admitted to its sin in a pathetic and craven fashion and said that it would try to do better.
The high point for state school entrance to Oxford in percentage terms was in the mid sixties. At that stage progressive types decided that grammar schools which gave a great education to bright kids from the working classes were a bad idea and started to abolish them. And guess what? Fewer state school kids ended up going to Oxford. It has been pretty much downhill ever since.
I do not deny for a second that the top public schools give their candidates an extra edge with intensive and expensive preparation for Oxford exams and interviews. I benefitted from that myself. But were that to, somehow, be stopped do you not think that parents who can afford to fork out £40,000 a year in school fees would not fork out a bit more for some extra private tuition. You just cannot stop that.
The real issue is that, whatever we are told about how everyone in state schools gets 3A*s at A level and squillions of A*s at GCSE’s, and however much the teaching unions bleat about how their underpaid (they are not) members perform heroics, far too many state schools are providing a substandard education to the poor kids who attend them. Those kids are taught badly and often taught meaningless piffle with a heavily slanted virtue signalling agenda and they thus have no chance of getting into Oxford.
These days, Oxford Dons are a politically correct bunch who will bend over backwards to get more State school kids in. But they can bend only so far. The sad fact is that our comprehensive school system is failing and that is why Oxford does not have more state school educated students.
And those who it does take are often not exactly the product of sink estates. Folks like Carole Cadwalladr like to boast about how they somehow made it despite having to fight their way in from the Comprehensive system. But like many of the comprehensive kids at Oxford, Carole went to a very good state school with a catchment area where parents had to be well off and middle class to live . I remember the most nauseating lefty in my college was the daughter of an old Etonian ex Labour MP who had grown up in luxury in the leafiest part of London. Natch she went to a state school with other kids from similar backgrounds and then insisted that she had somehow struggled to get to Oxford against all the odds. Just like the crazy cat lady. It was vomit inducing back then and it still is.
So forget the split between state and privately educated students at Oxford. The real divide is a class one. But it is not that Oxford discriminates against the working class it is that the State itself is failing them. Of course folks like David Lammy and the other professional baiters of Oxford will not accept that and nor will they dare to tackle their friends in the teaching unions to do anything about it.