More Fast Stream recruits coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Diversity improvements in all areas except regionally, with more recruits from London in 2022 than in 2021
London Fast Stream assessment centre. Photo: Adam Mitchinson/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

05 Apr 2023

A greater proportion of recruits to the civil service’s graduate scheme are coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds and ethnic minorities, the latest Cabinet Office figures show.

But while most metrics for increasing diversity are improving, recent improvements in regional diversity have reversed, with more recruits coming from London in 2022 than the year before, according to the latest statistics.

Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin revealed the figures in response to a series of parliamentary questions from Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister Florence Eshalomi.

The figures show that, in 2022, for the first time more than a fifth of applicants recommended for appointment to the Fast Stream were eligible for free school meals. There was also a record high level of successful applicants from non-selective state schools: 54.7% compared to 50.5% in 2021.

Quin said the Fast Stream "has been active in addressing diversity in respect to school representation" through improved marketing, expanded internships and a revised selection process.

There was also improvement in ethnic minority representation, with more than a quarter of successful candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds, the highest level recorded.

Successful Fast Stream applicants were still mostly White British – 66.4% – while the proportion of Black British – African candidates increased from 2% to 2.7%. The scheme has been has been criticised for its low representation of candidates from black backgrounds.

In the answers given by Quin, regional diversity was the exception to this progress, with 70.3% of recruits coming from outside London compared to 73% in 2021. The proportion coming from outside the capital in 2022 is now close to 2019’s figure of 69.5%.

A government spokesperson said: "We are boosting diversity across the civil service with a rise in representation of civil servants from a variety of backgrounds and locations, and that includes the Fast Stream programme.

"As these figures show, we are making good progress but we are not complacent and will continue to work hard to attract people from all sections of society, to ensure the civil service represents the public it serves."

Change from 2019 to 2022 – Fast Stream candidates recommended for appointment

Regional diversity 

Year Not from London
2019 69.5%
2020 Data not available
2021 73.0%
2022 70.3%

Ethnic minority representation

Year White British Ethnic minority Black or Black British - African
2019 74.3% 19.0% 2.2%
2020 74.7% 19.0% 2.3%
2021 69.8% 23.3% 2.0%
2022 66.4% 26.5% 2.7%

Free school meals eligibility

Year Eligible for free school meals
2019 13.1%
2020 15.3%
2021 16.1%
2022 21.3%

School representation

Year Non-selective state-run or state-funded Selective state Independent or fee-paying – without a bursary Independent or fee-paying – with a bursary
2019 47.5% 26.2% 19.6% 6.7%
2020 50.3% 27.6% 17.8% 4.3%
2021 50.5% 26.1% 17.2% 6.2%
2022 54.7% 26.5% 13.8% 5.0%

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