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How to tackle social mobility? Ask those who’ve ‘escaped the trap’

The recently retired chief inspector and CEO of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Christine Ryan, talks to Eleanor Busby about her ‘feral’ childhood, teaching herself O levels and what the government can do to help disadvantaged students succeed

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Christine Ryan has spent more than a decade at the forefront of independent school inspection, working closely with a string of ministers at the Department of Education.

But private schools were once very alien to the former Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) chief inspector, who describes her upbringing in Blackpool in the 1950s and ’60s as “feral”.

Reclining on a sofa in her spacious home in the Sussex countryside, six months after leaving the ISI, Ryan is frank about her “unconventional” journey.

She grew up in a large, socially disadvantaged family, where days would pass without Ryan ...

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