"So what does 7% of a 23-man England squad look like?"

Posted on: 24 Nov 2016
Posted by: Jaideep Barot

As an MP suggests the poor performance of the England football team may be linked to the number of independently educated players, Jaideep Barot, deputy head of Marlborough College, looks at the numbers and the 'political football' of schooling.

Yes, we get that it was said to make a point. A point about the inherent unfairness of labelling pupils at too young an age.

We get that in order to fight John Redwood’s fire with some of her own, Stella Creasy thought it would be right firstly to state in a Commons debate, presumably without blinking, that 13% of the players in the England football team were privately educated – double the national proportion of privately educated pupils – and secondly to wonder whether this might account for the team’s performance (by which we presume she means under-performance).

The MP for Walthamstow went on to suggest that this unrepresentatively high proportion of privately educated footballers meant that we were missing out on talent that exists in the comprehensive sector, as a result of too narrow a focus.

Frank Lampard, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fraser Forster are the 13% of which Ms Creasy speaks. Or rather, were, the 13% of which she speaks. In the England squad of 23 players in 2014, when these three were rightly regarded as leading lights in the English game. (In contrast, the squad which last week, in the dying minutes, blew a 2-0 lead against Spain, had 0% of its players educated privately).

So, what does 7% – the national proportion of pupils educated privately – of a 23-man England squad look like? It looks like 1.6 players (no, not Peter Crouch alongside Michael Owen). Perhaps Ms Creasy might accept, therefore, that two squad players who were privately educated would be a representative proportion? In which case, a temporary blip of one extra such player is hardly worth mentioning, any more than a similar blip of one fewer player would be. Or might she prefer that in four out of every ten squads named, there was only one privately educated player, with two such players allowed at all other times, thereby averaging 1.6 privately educated players per squad?

Yes, we know that this was an argument about social mobility, as Ms Creasy had the opportunity to re-iterate in The Guardian later, and that such detailed subsequent musings are not really the order of the day. But does this widely-reported news story not lend further weight to the idea that kicking the independent sector is the last publicly acceptable form of abuse? Is it not time, as so many others have suggested, that politicians stopped using the independent sector as a political football in this way – whether kicked by privately- or state-educated MPs?


About Jaideep Barot

Jaideep Barot is Deputy Head (academic) of Marlborough College, a co-educational day and boarding school in Wiltshire.