Civil servants will be quizzed on what school they went to in a drive to increase diversity 

Whitehall bosses are to ask staff if they went to private school in a drive to increase diversity.

As part of a survey of ‘socio-economic’ issues, civil servants will be asked to state the type of school they attended.

Other topics will include whether they qualified for free school meals as children and the profession and academic qualifications of their parents.

The survey has been drawn up following a consultation with private sector firms KPMG, Grant Thornton and Linklaters, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Whitehall bosses are asking staff if they went to private school in order to increase diversity

Civil servants will be asked if they qualified for free school meals. Stock picture

Civil servants will be asked if they qualified for free school meals. Stock picture

These companies are already said to ask staff such questions, while others including Standard Life say they will follow suit.

Tens of thousands of civil servants will take part in the annual survey in October.

But another Civil Service survey of almost 3,000 senior civil servants in 2016 found that just 23 per cent went to a fee-paying school, and 42 per cent of those had been on bursaries. Nearly half of those questioned – 47 per cent – went to a non-selective state school.

In the wider population, 7 per cent of children attend fee-paying schools.

However, Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, described the new survey as ‘methodologically naive’ and said that, as head of Harrow School, he had taught ‘boys who lived in council estates and boys who lived in castles’.

David Green, of think-tank Civitas, added: ‘For centuries every sincere supporter of liberty and democracy wanted individuals to be judged on their own merits … now Whitehall reactionaries want us to take a step backwards.’

And Henry Morris, of data analysts PIC, said: ‘The truth is that it doesn’t really matter how someone’s education was funded. The important thing is how much support their parents gave them and if they went to a high-quality school.’

Socio-economic checks on staff backgrounds will not become mandatory for companies, the Government said. However, guidelines published last week suggested that all employers hold similar surveys.

The document says the aim is to attract more ‘talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds’, perhaps by using the data to target recruitment campaigns.

The Cabinet Office said: ‘This [data] will be used anonymously and never to form the basis of individual recruitment decisions.’