A new report on social mobility describes how a "relaxed" approach to discipline in private schools – where pupils are encouraged to view themselves as equal to their teachers – helps young people to succeed in later life.
The report, "Elites in the UK: pulling away?" – published today by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust – cites a research project based in an elite boys' day school in London which found pupils benefited from an environment where they saw themselves as "relatively equal" to teachers and authority figures.
Citing Emma Taylor's research at the London School of Economics, the report says that the teaching style in elite private schools reinforces "a ‘flat’ hierarchy where the students perceive themselves as relatively equal to those in positions of authority".
The report adds: "This perception of a flattened hierarchy, along with a relaxed approach to discipline, provides space for students to practice their interactions with those in authority, without fear of repercussions, so that they gain confidence in navigating amongst elite personnel."
It says this relaxed approach to pupils' behaviour makes them feel confident in applying "pressure on those with power to secure advantages for themselves both at school and university".
"This adds to previous evidence that private schools instil in students a certain view of, and disposition to, the world, one of meritocracy and equality of opportunity in which hierarchies are there to be climbed," the report says.
It also reiterates recommendations from the charity's Mobility Manifesto, published just before the general election in December, which called for high-performing comprehensives, grammar schools and private schools to open up access to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It also found that London had "cemented its position as the epicentre of the elites since the 1980s", with young people born to middle-class families in the capital more able to take up unpaid internships and other opportunities.