Friday, 7 December 2012


Waiting in for a delivery. Bloody cold.

They are putting up the Ore Village Xmas tree later today - on the roof of our newly refurbished public toilet ( male, female and disabled catered for ), I may go to the ceremony - it shall be the jewel in our crown, and probably not the first magnificent erection these toilets have seen.

On the radio earlier - they were trying to explain why student's personal statements for University applications are generally better if you come from a private or independent school. NO SHIT!!!! Did someone actually get paid to write that? I used to plough through dozens of the bloody things - all state school PS's are identical - they are written to a formula, partly because the teaching staff can't cope with their workloads and have no choice, and partly because they are so restricted in what they can actually do - the dark shadow of a school inspector looming large over their shoulders, checking that they do what they are supposed to - ticking a few boxes and making sure they don't deviate from prescribed dogma. Students would regularly turn up for interviews with a 20 minute rehearsed speech - always identical, that covered everything I was apparently supposed to hear - which you would then need to sit through politely and then attempt to extract some truth from - quite often you would find that the students didn't really want to do the course anyway - but were following orders - or had been told by someone in 'careers' that it was 'for them' and they had no choice. I once had a careers officer come to me with a 16 year old boy - and informed that they were developing a 'learning pathway' for him so that in 2 years he would be ready for me to accept onto my degree course. The boy in question had no interest in my subject - but I suspect the careers officer had 'targets' and paperwork to complete. She was quite put out by my lack of compliance.

Students from middle class families with more money and better schooling are bound to have more advantages - I remember one day when I sat through a dozen dull, uninspiring, identikit interviews with state school students - some of whom had traveled from great distances - none of whom really understood the subject and who had been trained carefully in what to say, and none of whom could answer an indirect question or deviate from the script, I couldn't possibly tell from the allotted 20 mins per interview if any of them were suitable candidates - they were just a beige blur.

At the end of the day, a less talented student than I would have liked from a private school arrived - not a great interview, not great work, but clearly more sophisticated, better traveled, more experienced and more articulate than any other student. Multilingual - family working in fashion in Milan, home in one of the best parts of central London, lovely parents who came to the interview with him and clearly wanted to support him in a creative industry, having had a number of FANTASTIC work experiences already - including working in a top magazine, design agency and as a fashion model - and a very well crafted and individual personal statement from a very good private boys school in central London ( that he clearly didn't compose himself ). Did I offer him a place? Of course I did. I also ended up spending a huge amount of extra time with all the state school students trying to get them to open up and divine if they were actually interested in the course or had any possible chance of succeeding, not for my sake - but for theirs - they are about to piss away 30K and the three most important years of their lives - they should really be committed to the subject. I'd regularly get answers to my 'why do you want to do this course' question along the lines of - "because my teacher told me to' -or, more annoyingly 'it's part of my lesson plan to go to an interview to see what it's like, I have to write a report on you to get my grade'.

Students from better schools with more resources have usually had more staff contact - have better personal statements that they clearly invested time in and have been worked on in conjunction with a staff member, who actually wants to help them, and has the time to do so. They usually have parents who understand their choices and support them, and are comfortable with the financial commitment, and have no prejudices towards creative industries. They usually have extended, professional, middle class families who are happy to help with work experience and references ( working in Top Shop on Saturday is not as flash as working at Vogue in the summer holidays, tru-fact). They are generally more sophisticated, aware, and articulate - and have no 'fear' of anything - because they have never really had anything bad happen, or been denied things ( it's not unusual for a student of 17 to put 'ipad app developer' on their CV, assuming they come from a family where all the kids have ipads).

I was lucky that I ran a small course and only had to trawl through about 100 interviews, at least I could take some time to try and give everyone the same chances - courses with 8000 applicants often filter 70-80% out online - so many potentially great kids get a line drawn through their name rather than under it without ever having the chance to try.

No, life isn't fair.

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