Monday, 1 February 2016

None of my business, anyway!

The papers are reporting that David and Samantha Cameron are considering sending their son Elwen to a top private school (£18,000 per year) which is a recognised feeder school for Eton. Someone or other has reported that David Cameron "wants to send Elwen to Eton but can't do it while he's still in Downing Street". I wonder why not? Anyway, by the time ten-year-old Elwen is old enough for Eton, his father will no longer be Prime Minister, according to his own declared plans. 

Now, his daughter goes to a very good state secondary school in Westminster, rated outstanding by OFSTED. I wonder why that is not good enough for his son. Perhaps it doesn't confer the same career privileges - oops, I mean opportunities - as Eton. But do girls not also need good career opportunities? What exactly is the equivalent to Eton for young ladies? And can young ladies who go to Oxford join the Bullingdon Club? And, apart from my instinctive dislike of seeing privilege perpetuated, what business is it of mine where the Cameron children go to school? 

A young woman called Tessa Cooper writing in the Guardian about her decision at 18 not to go university. Here is a link to her article. It's odd how things turn out and how opinions and requirements change. My younger brother began a degree course in the 1970s and dropped put, deciding it wasn't for him. He found employment in banking and throughout his career found himself overtaken by people with less experience but more paper qualifications. And yet now it seems that there are companies like Penguin who are no longer making a degree a necessary qualification for working with them. 

Through the 1990s and the 2000s, working in sixth Form colleges, I advised young people to go to university. I helped them write personal statements and choose the university course to suit them. Maybe it was a mistake to persuade so many young people to go and get a degree in whatever discipline would accept them, devaluing the degree to some extent in the process and leading to a glut on the market. The law of unforeseen consequences also led to employers demanding higher qualifications for all sorts of jobs. 

Tessa Cooper, now I imagine in her mid-twenties, says she has recently decided to study for a master's degree, not because she needs it but because she wants to study and feels ready. There it is, that important thing of going into study with passion. 

The easiest students to help, I always found, were those who had a burning desire to study a specific subject, not only because they realised it might help their future employment prospects but mainly because they loved that subject and wanted to continue learning more. Perhaps I was right when I advised student to do just that, apply for the subject they loved - even though my own son told me once that I should have advised him to study Business instead of History! 

In the end, however, it has to be the decision of the person filling in the application form! 

Then there is the pyjama debate. For some mothers it would seem that just getting their children fed, dressed and off to school every morning is a miracle. It's too much to ask them to get out of their own jimjams and into proper clothes before jumping into their four by four to take the kids to school! I wonder how my daughter does it. She doesn't turn up to work in her pyjamas, at least not unless it's a charity event when everyone wears nightwear to school or work. 

The debate has been taken to a higher fashion level, with famous people being photographed in very expensive pyjamas. And it's not just women. Some male television personalities have been seen leaving television studios in what are clearly pyjama bottoms. But then, I suppose that if you spend over a thousand pounds on pyjamas, you won't just wear them to sleep in! 

None of this has anything to do with me, of course. I simply remember my grandmother, who never stepped outside of the house unless she was immaculately dressed, and usually had at least her second-best hat on. Italian friends of mine tell me that their mothers live by the same philosophy, taking it a step farther: they are usually beautifully made up and have their killer heels on their feet!


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