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  • Writer's pictureAlan Dale

Primary Schadenfreude Revival’s Greatest Hits - A little socioeconomic history saga - Part 4

A fellow student, with whom I shared my first digs, had fallen into the so-called poverty trap. His parents’ income was marginally above the qualifying line for a full grant, but they couldn’t afford to make up the difference. As the Students’ Union acidly observed on numerous occasions, a loaf of bread cost everyone the same.

I know people now take all manner of jobs to pay their way through higher education, becoming saddled with colossal debt in the process. This demonstrates admirable determination and independence, but should never lead inevitably to financially and psychologically crippling debt.

That it does so is intrinsically amoral and derives from the Thatcher/Joseph replacement of the former university financial structure with their business model. It also discourages many from even considering higher education, thereby diverting them directly towards a greater likelihood of low earnings.

Official “reassurances” about debt write-off beyond a certain period, should earnings not exceed a ceiling, probably fail to reassure many prospective applicants. Being told that your credit rating won't be affected carries similarly strong echoes of "won't you come into my parlour...".

Again, I freely acknowledge that my education was all that its advocates asserted – a great opportunity for social and economic advancement. It was my forty-nine less fortunate fellow primary school pupils, for whom I felt sorry. I was delighted that a few eventually made it to uni. A colleague at a temporary summer job explained that the pass mark in a county was at least partially predicated on the availability of places. She knew what she was talking about, having taken up the cudgels on behalf of one her children. The whole thing still reeked of injustice – one beneficiary out of fifty?

Remember John Shrapnel, in that marvellous docudrama about the exposing of the truth behind the work of Sir Cyril Burt, of 11-plus infamy? “We now have fifty pairs of twins...”

I would like to conclude this series of Primary Schadenfreude Revival’s Greatest Hits by acknowledging the excellent blog which initially inspired it.

Thank you, Dilvin Yasa:

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