Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Class and Higher Education

It's interesting to read this article which says that many teachers discourage their pupils from applying to Oxford or Cambridge. I was certainly strongly discouraged by my teachers. I was told that as a person from a council estate and a comprehensive school I would not be considered an acceptable candidate. I was also told that even putting Oxford or Cambridge as a choice on my UCAS form would result in me being shunned by any other college I applied to, because they would think I was ... I can't remember the term that was used. It wasn't uppity, but that was the implication. I was also told that you had to have a personal contact or recommendation within a college to be considered. As a 17 year old lass I didn't know any different.

It's surprising what effort teachers used to put in to try to prevent working class people from getting on. We would be constantly told that doors were closed to us, that we would be unhappy or uncomfortable if we tried, that there was no point in trying. H was told he should go and work the mines like his dad. I wasn't allowed to do A level English on the basis that 'You would have to read books'. This is despite getting a double A in English at O level. Middle class kids with much lower grades than me were allowed into the class. But more than this overt discrimination, it was the sour looks and discouraging words.

I think it was to try to overcome these barriers that the school league tables and so on were instituted, and the attempt to extend Higher Education to a very high proportion of school leavers. It's a crude and perhaps even destructive lever, but it was an attempt to address a hidden exclusion which must have affected millions of young people like me. The ones who were less aggressive and bolshy than me probably took the teachers' advice and went to work in a factory.
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