The heads of some of the country’s leading private schools have said that it is time for politicians and the media to stop being "rude" about their schools.
They have rejected claims that they are bastions of privilege in society - and have stressed they have "plenty of pupils from ordinary backgrounds".
A letter to the Sunday Times signed by 12 leading heads, including Simon Henderson of Eton College and Patrick Derham at Westminster School, argues that "all our schools are deeply committed to accessibility".
The intervention comes after Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock said employers should ask job candidates if they had been privately educated in order to “level the playing field” for all applicants. It is expected that applicants for civil service jobs will be asked the questions when applying as part of "equalities monitoring".
Lord Waldegrave, the provost of Eton, has threatened to quit the Tory party over the move. He said: "I think it quite wrong to punish children for decisions taken by their parents, and to run the risk of choosing crucial public service jobs not on the basis of merit but of social engineering."