I'm staying with my parents in Milton Keynes this weekend. C. works for a major UK retailer, and is 'encouraged' to spend a couple of days each year helping out in a store. This year she is choosing MK, and as it seemed ridiculous for us to take 2 cars down from Nottingham, and because I had a bit of shopping to do, I have ended up wandering up and down the shopping centre, desperately killing time until she knocks off at 6pm (having arrived a little before 9am). I am currently sat in the lobby of the "Easy Cinema" in their "Easy Internet" bit waiting for the start of "Bad Santa" in a couple of hours... that should take me through the rest of the day. I spent hours and hours of my life in here as a teenager, in the days when it was UCI The Point - the UK's first multiplex cinema. I saw my first "18" certificate here (Tango & Cash !).
It looks a little run down now. The main cinema seems to have migrated over to the X-Scape snowdome place over the way, but they only had the enormo films on, and I really wanted to see this one.
I had a letter from my old school when I got home. They seem particularly self-satisfied that they have been held up by the Daily Telegraph as an example to other independent schools. Why? Well. It's something of a long story... so bear with me... Entry to an independent school like Rugby is usually done via an entrance exam called the "Common Entrance". In theory this is to make sure that you meet the required academic standard for entry, but in practice (at least in my day) if you were good enough to put your name down for the school, they didn't knock back your fees, whatever your score. An alternative to this was the Scholarship exam. If you were bright, you were put forward for this... the prize was a number of entry scholarships i.e. money off your bill. The top scholarship was worth 80% of the fees - so not to be sniffed at.
I believe the school considered this charity.
The reason they school are feeling smug, is that they have decided to change this system, because apparently they have come under some criticism for offering these scholarships to people regardless of how well-off their parents were: your intelligence was the only criterion. Under the new proposals, the maximum scholarship award will be a reduction of 10%. To get a scholarship worth more than that, your parents will have to be means tested.
I think this is a way of the school showing how much effort the are making to encourage the children of less privileged backgrounds; of showing how great their largesse is by generously offering a place amongst the elite for the lower classes. After all - as they say themselves in the letter, they reckon it costs about £23k a year all in to send a child to Rugby (hell, considering what we have been saying about the UK average salary, that's an awful lot of money...)
As you know. I'm a cynic, and I knew there must be something in this.
For starters, the school are asking for MY money to help them fund this. They also sent this letter to my parents. Frankly, I think my parents have given enough to this lot. They "suggest" £20 a month should do it. I suggest they piss off.
What's their real motive for this sudden wish to spread their wonderful education around? I wonder if it's anything to do with the fact that Rugby, like other independent schools in the UK, is a registered charity. Yes, that's right. In terms of tax status, Rugby School gets the same breaks as Oxfam. They are EXEMPT from tax because "the advancement of education is a charitable objective". How ridiculous is that?
Pretty ridiculous. In fact it's bloody scandalous. How the hell can they justify that?
Oh look. It turns out that the government is looking to challenge this status unless the school can demonstrate that they pass a "public benefit" test.
So the cause of Rugby School's smugness? They are taking TINY steps to open up their education to less well-off kids. And what's more, they're trying to fund this by getting money by asking people like me.
They can piss off. If I have a spare £20 a month, I can think of MILLIONS of better ways to make it available to the needy.
I can't believe their bloody nerve.