Simon Woolley and The Guardian are telling us all how appallingly white Britain's elite is. This is rather a large campaign by them in fact. One part of which gives us our nomination for the most egregious piece of innumeracy to appear in The Guardian:
But right now, the path to power for minorities is strewn with rocks and hurdles. A BBC study last year – accompanying David Harewood’s documentary Will There Ever Be a Black Prime Minister? – highlighted the fact that 50% of the 2014 intake for Oxford and Cambridge University was taken from five private schools.
Surely one of The Guardian's editors was going to catch that? After all, most of them did go to private schools and then onto Oxbridge. They'd thus have personal experience of the relative sizes of the various institutions.
Just in case it's not hit yet, Oxford seems to admit some 3,200 undergraduates each year, Cambridge 4,300 or so. 50% of that is 3,750 students and we're not even sure that Britain's top 5 schools have that many pupils in total - although we're absolutely 100% certain that their graduating upper sixth doesn't have anything like that in total. We're also absolutely 100% certain that not all people who leave such elite schools manage to get into Oxbridge. The universities are rather more selective than that.
We are given a link to the proof of the contention though, that BBC study:
Four independent schools - Eton, Westminster, St Paul's Boys and St Paul's Girls - and state-funded Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, together sent 946 pupils to Oxford and Cambridge between 2007 and 2009.
By contrast, 2,000 lower-performing schools combined sent a total of 927 students to the two elite universities, getting less than 6% of available places, the Sutton Trust found.
Hmm. 900 and a bit over a couple of years is 6% of all places granted, therefore 900 and a bit places over a couple of years must be 6% of all places granted. We would therefore say that five schools provide around 6%, not 50%.
Sure, OK, we might call this trivia however delicious it is to point to such innumeracy. But the larger report, as one of us has described elsewhere, suffers from a similarly large failure. Their Colour of Power report compares the BAME population in that governing elite with the BAME population of the nation at large. Yet that governing elite comes from a certain sort of age group - obviously. And the BAME portion of the population varies considerably by age cohort. From some 2% or so in the over 85s to some 21% or so in the under 4s.
No, despite what you might think of Corbyn or McDonnell we do not draw our governing elite from those - and least not exclusively so - crumbling into the grave nor those just learning to open the cookie jar. The general report is as innumerate as this example about Oxbridge entry.
Both we generally and The Guardian in particular should send Simon Woolley back to do his sums again - and no supper for him until he's got them right.
Good grief, can't we at least expect that those who tell us how the country should be run can add up?