Sir: I was a pupil at St Paul’s School from 1952 to 1957. I remember seeing the bill for a term: £30 tuition, plus £15 ‘extras’ (lunches, books…). I was a scholar, so the £30 was deleted. It was no great distinction to be a scholar, as there were 153 scholars among the 650 pupils. My group of friends all got Oxbridge scholarships.
As a student in 1960, I had a holiday job as a milkman. I only earned £12 a week, but some milkmen earned enough commission to bring their weekly wage packet up to £20. In the 1950s, the average milkman could afford to send his son to St Paul’s. The fees now are little under £7,000 a term. Stephen Robinson’s powerful piece (‘Private Grief’, 19 May) shows us what has gone wrong.
Sir: Stephen Robinson, in his engaging overview of the independent sector, is wrong to suggest that bursaries for deprived pupils have a detrimental effect on the quality of our top public schools. Here at Rugby, fully funded places for disadvantaged young people have had a transformative impact. Those on bursaries enrich school life, with many blending in so well with other students that it is hard to tell who is receiving full financial support. Our access scheme, the Arnold Foundation, also defines who we are as a school and serves as a powerful reminder of the charitable mission laid down by our founders. Instead of seeing such initiatives as part of some malaise afflicting private schools, we should celebrate their role in widening aspiration and broadening diversity.
Headmaster, Rugby School
Sir: Stephen Robinson bemoans how much private schools have changed since his day. There’s also the degeneration of ethos. In my day two of the worst sins were vulgarity and swanking (on a par, my father used to say, with being pi, murder and cheating at cards). Nowadays private school pupils gladly boast about expensive cars and holidays, Filipino maids and all the other paraphernalia. It’s no wonder though, I don’t suppose, in a world of celebrity-worship, The Apprentice, millionaires footballers and the like.
Evidence of bias
Sir: When John Simpson (‘Bias, Boris and the Beeb’, 19 May) can point me to examples of BBC journalists asking politicians why they are taxing and spending so much of the public’s money, and passing so many new laws, instead of constantly berating them for not ‘doing something’ or not spending more money on the issue of the day, then I will believe that the BBC is not institutionally biased towards big government and the left.
Sir: Emily Rhodes was not telling the whole story when she extolled the value of charm in her article ‘Brideshead re-elected’ (12 May).
Anthony Blanche specifically warns Charles Ryder about the charm of the Flyte family. At their last meeting, he says to Charles, ‘I warned you expressly and in great detail of the Flyte family. Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Charles, it has killed you.’
So the question is, what will charm do to the one Tory who does indubitably possess it: Boris Johnson?
Sir: Duct tape assiduously applied to every door in a cage would not contain a hamster (Status anxiety, 12 May). They always get out — they are nocturnal and will drive you crazy running around under the floorboards at night. Get a wastepaper bin, put food in it and some crumpled-up paper for a soft landing. Make a ramp with a piece of wood 45 degrees to the side of the bin. Hey presto, by morning the little blighter will be in the bin, having had a decent dinner. You will regain that hamster and your self-esteem and forego the outlay of a tenner.
Victoria Thorburn By email
Sir: Having recently had a TV set installed in this household after some 60 years of abstinence (‘The right to squeak’, 12 May) it has become apparent that not only do the tones of women’s voices on television go up a notch or two, but they constantly wave their hands about as if trying to convince me that what they are saying is true. I never had that distraction from my old wireless.
Sir: I must add to the comments of Ken Wortelhock about NHS test results (Letters, 5 May). My 88-year-old mother-in-law had to wait two weeks for the result of a blood test in the UK. Here in Thailand, our cat had a blood test and the computer printout of the result was available in ten minutes.
Graves of gold-diggers
Sir: James Delingpole (19 May) saw in Australian gold-mining country ‘the mansions and prosperous townships of those who made it and the graveyards of those who didn’t’. Unless the properties of gold are even more miraculous than he has led us to believe, the graveyards also contain those who made it.
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