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Eton and the making of a modern elite | 1843

Eton is, as the headmaster puts it, unashamed in its pursuit of excellence. The school aims to educate the elite, as it always has, but it has reshaped itself in order to accommodate a new elite defined by money, brains and ambition, not pedigree, titles and acres.

The percentage of pupils at the school with an OE father went down from 60% in 1960 to 33% in 1994 to 20% now. Eton has gone from being an heirloom handed down through the generations to a revolving door.

The contest isn’t simply between candidates. It’s a battle of wits between a school whose proclaimed intention is to identify deserving talent and ambition, and parents who will do everything to stack things in their child’s favour. Well-off, well-organised parents prepare their sons ruthlessly, hiring tutors, making the boys do ceaseless verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests and sending them to interview classes to learn how to be sparky and empathetic. The school is wise to these constantly evolving efforts to game the system, however, and a lot of boys who have done brilliantly in the computerised test are turned down because they aren’t interesting at inter­view. If a boy makes me laugh, says one of the school’s interviewers, he stands a good chance of getting in.

The story of Eton’s reconquest of the commanding heights of Britain is one of gradual rehabilitation. With the weakening of the hard left, the prospect of private schools being abolished receded, while Eton’s efforts to present itself less as a throwback to an earlier age than a guarantor of achievement in the current one began to pay dividends.

If Eton hasn’t quite become the liberal, socially transformative institution the reformists seek, it is undeniably more discerning in allocating one of the best starts in life that money (or brains, or ambition) can get you.
uk  education  school  boy  elite  reform  system 
december 2016 by aries1988

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