Private schools are losing their stranglehold on Who’s Who, a new report has found, with state-educated entries almost doubling.

Researchers analysed the education background of Who’s Who entries which lists the country’s leading politicians, judges, business leaders, civil servants and notable figures from the arts, academia and other areas.

In the most recent issue of Who’s Who 39 per cent of entries went to state schools and 61 per cent to private schools, according to a report by Keystone Tutors.

But the same analysis on Who Was Who, which lists everyone who used to be in Who’s Who but has since passed away, found that just 21 per cent were from state schools and 79 per cent from fee-paying institutions.

“It wasn’t  that long ago that if you went to some of the top private schools, it almost gave you an automatic passport into a position of power,” said Will Orr-Ewing, founder of Keystone Tutors.

“But in the last half a generation or so there has been such an emphasis on meritocratic entry processes.”

 Despite the increase in entries from state school educated people, a select group of private school alumni still dominate the current edition of Who’s Who.  

Eton College ranks the highest for entries in both Who’s Who and Who Was Who. The boarding school produces as many influential figures in society as Britain’s top 36 state schools combined, the study found.

It is followed by Winchester College and Harrow School, whose alumni include Winston Churchill and the actor Benedict Cumberbatch.  

The highest ranking state school for entries is Reading School, a grammar school for boys, with 46 entries.  Half of the top ten state schools for entries are grammars, including The Royal Grammar School High Wycombe whose alumni include the comedian Jimmy Carr and the rugby player Matt Dawson.  

Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council, said the research raises the question: “Is there something about independent schools that explains the large number of their pupils who have distinguished careers?  

“It seems to me to be obvious that children from prosperous and successful families who can afford expensive boarding schools are quite likely to be ambitious and have access to networks of friends, family know-how and resources that help them on their way.”