At private school, I saw the arrogance of those ‘born to rule’ | Letter

Norma Cradock recalls being a pupil with a free place at a direct grant school, and the snobbery of her fee-paying classmates

Reading the article by Kalwant Bhopal and Martin Myers (Elite universities aren’t hotbeds of ‘wokery’: our research shows they’re rife with racism and classism, 30 January) took me back 77 years to when I was an 11-year-old pupil at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school for girls in Acton, which was then a direct grant school, meaning some places were free and others were paid for. I was one of a handful of girls who were awarded a free place as a result of good performance in the 11-plus examination, courtesy of Middlesex county council.

I must say that the school and the staff never treated us any differently from the fee-paying pupils, but that was not always true of the pupils themselves, who often made me feel inferior and undeserving of my place.

One of them once said to me: “You wouldn’t be here if your father had to pay for you.” Since my father was a railwayman and my mother worked in a sweet factory, that was undoubtedly true, so I just swallowed the insult and didn’t reply.

Had I shared their “born to rule” mentality, I would have had the courage robustly to reply with an equal truth: “And you are only here because your father can pay for you.” I have sometimes looked back with regret at my timidity.
Norma Cradock

The GuardianTramp

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