The British government has recently published a report on social class in the UK. Read texts B-H about this report and headings 1-5 carefully. Notice that: each heading goes with only one text, there are more texts than headings. Answers must be based exclusively on the information in the texts.
HAS THE DIVIDE BETWEEN BRITAIN’S SOCIAL CLASSES REALLY NARROWED?
A. The Government has published a document which makes the startling claim that, after a long period of social stagnation, British society has become socially mobile again. For 30 years there was no appreciable movement between social classes, although society as a whole became better off. Children born in relative poverty left school with fewer qualifications than children from more comfortable homes, and went into low-paid work. But since 2000, the Government claims, that general pattern has changed for the better.
B. It is well known that a child’s chances of achieving the benchmark of five good GCSEs, including maths and English, are heavily influenced by social background. Children brought up in low-income households are much less likely to succeed than the children of successful, financially secure parents. But studies that compare GCSE results achieved by children born in 1970 and children born in 1990 show the gap has closed to a significant degree.
C. It is too early to judge what the social impact of these findings will be because children born in 1990 are still teenagers. Who can tell what jobs will be available for them in a few years? Abigail McKnight, co-author of the report, warned: «How this is going to play out, we don’t know. Obviously, you need a very long run of data, so we will see what the recession brings.”
D. The very rich just go on getting richer. However, that is a separate issue. New Labour has never claimed that it was going to stop people from becoming very rich. What it did promise was that it would remove the obstacles which prevent people at the bottom of the ladder from climbing any higher. This report is their evidence that the Government have made a start.
E. As Bernard Shaw wittily pointed out in his play Pygmalion, a person’s class could be immediately deduced from the way they spoke. A dropped «h» or shortened vowel sounds were sure signs of a lower-class background. Even when the flower girl in Shaw’s play has learnt to pronounce words with an upper-class accent and to dress and sit like a lady, she gives herself away by exclaiming «not bloody likely» – albeit in a cut-glass accent.
F. Britain’s class structure loosened after the Second World War. The landed aristocracy became relatively poorer, the number of people in manual work decreased, and the 1944 Education Act opened universities to more children whose parents could not afford private education. Television knocked down some of the cultural barriers between classes.
G. In the 1960s, the famous Frost Report sketch satirised the way people dressed and spoke according to how they perceived their social status. But even as that sketch was broadcast, the social stigma attached to speaking with a workingclass or regional accent was breaking down. Middle-class teenagers were swept up in Beatlemania just as much as their working-class contemporaries.
H. The class system may be better concealed than it used to be, but it is alive and well. It persists in the mind, as anyone who watched the recent BBC2 series, Prescott: The Class System And Me, will have seen. John Prescott rose to the second-highest political office in the land and yet, as he freely admits, he never shed the sense of inferiority that came from being an 11-plus failure and a ship’s waiter.