Anti-private school campaigner hits out at Zahawi's 'tilt the system' Oxbridge comment

15 May 2022, 16:13 | Updated: 15 May 2022, 16:15

By Tim Dodd

Labour Against Private Schools co-founder Steven Longden asks "which planet" Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is on in criticising universities who "tilt the system away from children who are performing".

Nadhim Zahawi pushed back against the idea that Oxford and Cambridge should accept more pupils from state schools after Cambridge University vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope told private schools to accept they will get fewer students into Oxbridge in the future.

Professor Toope said the university would be "welcoming others" rather than telling students from private schools "we don't want you".

Mr Zahawi, however, said it was the job of Government to reduce the "attainment gap" between the state and private sectors by increasing the quality of state schools.

Mr Longden told Matthew Wright: "One could swallow this more if, as you say, there was a level playing field already, but clearly there is not a level playing field.

"State schools, on average, spend about £5,500 on secondary school students, your average private school spends about £15,000.

"On top of that, you consider all the connections that private schools foster, that private schools already have - incredibly well established connections with all of the Oxbridge colleges, plus all the social networks that one gathers through attending these elite schools."

Read more: Calling a man 'bald' is sex harassment, tribunal of hairless men rules

Mr Longden continued: "The pats on the backs, the introductions into various internships in the city and elsewhere.

"So please don't insult us by suggesting, I mean I think he even described... the actual action that Oxbridge is taking is somehow 'tilting the system'. I mean, dear god, which planet is he on? The system is already so tilted in favour of private schools!"

Read more: First 50 migrants will be sent to Rwanda in two weeks, Boris Johnson says

"I think it should be based on merit and evidence," Mr Zahawi, who was promoted to his current role in Boris Johnson's 2021 Cabinet reshuffle, told The Times.

His comments come after a Cambridge academic has suggested that privately educated white boys are being disadvantaged in the Oxbridge university admissions process due to a "culture wars" on "privilege".