Vivacious, witty, Dorothy Tutin was one of our greatest actresses… but when she was dying in hospital she was treated like a caged animal
By Amanda Waring
My mother Dame Dorothy Tutin was an actress whose charm and intelligence made her one of theatre’s most accomplished leading ladies. All her life, she was appalled by the thought that one day old age, infirmity or sickness might make her a burden on others.
Like many of her generation she did not like to make a fuss. Quiet fortitude was her style. So during her final illness she did not protest when she was treated with a level of dismissive contempt that amounted to cruelty.
When she was quarantined in a bleak and windowless hospital room, Mama — who had been diagnosed with terminal leukaemia — was accorded neither compassion nor care.
Those who were supposed to look after her were thoughtless and perfunctory. When she was given medicines nobody troubled to explain what they were or why they had been prescribed. Her meals were dispensed brusquely and wordlessly.
The nurses who bathed her did not pause to consider the intimacy or delicacy of their task. They jostled and prodded her as if she were inanimate. Most insultingly of all, they talked over her rather than to her, discussing their domestic lives and their love affairs in indelicate detail. My mother was alert and articulate. Yet no one bothered to ask her name, much less address her by it.
Sadly, Mama’s story is one that will strike a chord with countless families today. She was 70 when she was admitted to an NHS hospital in 1999 for a course of chemotherapy. She stayed just ten days, marooned in the silent island of that airless room — bereft of conversation; her concerns and fears unacknowledged — before I removed her.
In that short time she aged and diminished visibly. The weight fell off her and the light went out of her eyes. She had been ignored and humiliated. ‘I feel like a caged animal,’ she told me timorously, fearful that a nurse would overhear her complaint and treat her with even frostier disdain.
Even though it is now 11 years since Mama died, not a day goes by when I do not miss her. I thought of her earlier this week when this newspaper disclosed the shaming news that one consultant took a ‘veterinary approach’ to caring for those with dementia, not treating them in the same way as those he could speak to, while another confessed that he had never been trained in their care.
I believe it is time to issue a reminder that our elderly deserve so much better.
As the Daily Mail acknowledges in its Dignity for the Elderly campaign, our elders deserve compassionate care. Yet all too often they are treated with a shocking negligence that borders on brutality.
The short spell my Mama spent in that hospital has shaped the path of my life since. For the treatment she and the other elderly patients around her endured inspired me to campaign for change; not just in the way we treat our elderly, but also in the value we place on those who undertake the vital — and I would say sacred — task of looking after them.
For our elders are repositories of wisdom and experience. All our futures are bound up in their pasts, and if we fail to acknowledge this our own lives will be the poorer.
After my mother died in 2001 — a year and a half after doctors told her she had only three months to live — I made a film, What Do You See, in which Mama’s great friend, the actress Virginia McKenna, plays a stroke victim.
The inspiration for the film, which I funded by selling my flat [apartment], was a poem by the nurse Phyllis McCormack, who worked with the elderly. Phyllis knew that in every elderly woman there lurks ‘a young girl of 16 with wings on her feet’; that in frail bodies there still reside hopes and dreams.
Her poem is a plea for compassion, kindness and empathy, and my film extends that appeal. As Virginia’s character implores: ‘Look closer, see me.’ The film is now used to train carers and to encourage them to see the person inside, regardless of age or disability. I have since made three other films and my forthcoming book, The Heart Of Care, is a distillation of all my experiences — from how to create compassionate care homes to coping with dementia.
My campaigning continues alongside my work as an actress, writer and film-maker, and I am pleased to say that the Royal College of Nursing has now accredited my dementia training packs. I do all this work in honour of my beloved Mama, so others will be treated with respect, because memories of her short time in that hospital still haunt me.
A careless disregard for the patients prevailed at all levels. There was no concern for their privacy, even during the most personal and momentous of exchanges.
I heard a doctor tell a terminally-ill patient in a nearby bed that he had only weeks to live. He issued the news abruptly and left immediately.
The elderly man started to sob. I went to console him and when he told me his fears were not for himself, but for his elderly disabled wife who would have nobody to care for her when he died, I felt so desperately sad I gave him my phone number. I could not leave him cut adrift and comfortless.
I realise doctors must preserve a degree of professional detachment, but I do not understand how a dying man could have been left so isolated in his grief. There are so many ways of demonstrating sympathy and understanding.
To some, a proffered hand may be intrusive; to others it may demonstrate connection, communication; a reciprocity of feelings.
But the important thing is to ask, not to assume. Dignity, of course, is at the heart of it all, which is why I applaud the Daily Mail’s campaign and why I am a member of the National Dignity Council.
When I realised the effect that the lack of compassionate care was having on my mother in 1999, I remember driving to her GP’s home and insisting she be moved to a different hospital. Her doctor was leaving to play golf as I arrived.
But I would not let him leave. I jammed the door open with my foot and said I would not go until he had promised she would be moved. On the day when I smuggled Mama out of hospital — and it was a furtive exit because she was worried about creating a stir — she burst into tears of relief.
I took her to another hospital in Central London and the greeting was warm, kind and personal. Mama felt instantly that she hadn’t been written off. This change in attitude seemed to fire her determination to get better. Before, she had felt it almost impertinent to fight to stay alive — but that is what happens when the elderly are treated as encumbrances.
So my dear Mama rallied, and survived for another year-and-a-half, living between my home and hospital. She lived to enjoy three wonderful events. First there was the birth of my son Ben in 2000. In the same year she went with my father, the actor Derek Waring, to Buckingham Palace where she was elevated to Dame Commander of the British Empire. She was able, too, to attend my brother Nick’s wedding.
Would she have enjoyed those three memorable days if she had been left to languish in that hospital? Somehow I doubt it, because the spirit to fight shrivels and wanes when those caring for us treat us with disdain.
Yet Mama had always been such an imposing presence. She had a husky voice, chocolate brown eyes, and such a wonderful, rich laugh it still resonates in my memory.
Her work with the Royal Shakespeare Company remains celebrated. In the Sixties she was acclaimed for a string of leading roles, from Viola in Twelfth Night to Desdemona in Othello and Varya in The Cherry Orchard.
Her distinguished career spanned five decades. There were films as well as theatre work and her TV credits include leading roles in The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Jake’s Progress and Murder With Mirrors, a film based on an Agatha Christie novel, in which she starred with Helen Hayes and Bette Davis. Dad, too, was well-known for roles in The Professionals, Z Cars, George & Mildred and The New Avengers. Little wonder my brother and I also became actors.
Mama was a glorious presence on the stage, and the theatre was her life blood, but as a child I remembered her best for her role as Peter Pan. I was six when I saw her, airborne on invisible wires, and for a while I believed she possessed magical powers.
Certainly life with her was full of adventures. I remember a holiday on the Isle of Arran when we were lost in the mist and helicopters were sent to search of us.
In Greece we were stranded in a ravine but Mama never instilled fear. ‘You’re braver than you think,’ she used to tell us. Which is why I hated to see her so tremulous with fear when she was first diagnosed with leukaemia. The whole family — Mama, Dad, Nick and I — had been in the Bahamas doing a show when she collapsed.
The blood tests she underwent when she came back home disclosed that she had leukaemia. The doctor who broke the news was brutal. ‘You have three months to live,’ she was informed — and the abrasiveness of the communication scarred her. After that, every time she saw a doctor she would physically shake.
But mercifully, her death was a good one. She passed away in the Macmillan Unit of the matchless King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst, West Sussex, in a room with beautiful views of the garden.
Her nurses comforted her and I was privileged to be with her at the end. We talked about her passing — I believe we should all have space, as our lives ebb away, to discuss the mystery of death — and she told me she hoped to come back as a butterfly.
It was a solace for me to think of her shrugging off the burden of her illness and fluttering weightless among the flowers, as vibrant and gorgeous as she was when she was young. And actually, I think Mama has since sent signs to comfort me.
On the day of her cremation I could not bear to think that her body would burn into ashes but, as the curtains closed on her coffin, a bright Red Admiral butterfly fluttered in on a shaft of sunlight: Mama, I believe, was sending a message of solace.
Whenever I see a butterfly now I think she is near and it gives me strength and courage. I feel privileged to work, in her name, on behalf of the elderly. They are our history-keepers and we must honour them, for unless we acknowledge our past, our lives will be infinitely poorer.
Indian doctor ‘abused nine female patients aged eight to 40 over ten years’ because complaints were ignored
A respected GP sexually abused nine female patients – the youngest just eight – over a decade, despite a string of complaints against him, a jury heard today. Dr Markandu Ragupathy, 61, from Beckenham, south London, ‘used his position of trust to satisfy his own sexual gratification and curiosity,’ prosecutor Toby Fitzgerald claimed.
From the mid-Nineties until 2007 the GP was employed at the Torridon Road Medical Practice in Catford, where eight of the complainants say they were sexually assaulted. ‘He would say there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication and this was accepted by the senior partner at the practise,’ Mr Fitzgerald told Woolwich Crown Court. ‘The defendant remained free at the practise to sexually assault other patients and believed the practise would accept any explanation and for some years he was correct in thinking this.’
Ragupathy denies fifteen counts of indecent assault; one count of attempted indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault between 1995 and 2005. ‘These assaults were carried out during what he purported to be medical examinations, but were for his own sexual gratification and often involved the patients breasts and vaginal area,’ added Mr Fitgerald. ‘The Crown say there was no clinical reason to carry out the examinations at all or they were carried out in a way that was not clinically justified.’
Patient A, 40, went to Ragupathy with a chest cough. The court heard that the GP moved his hands around to her breasts and massaged them with his palms. On a second occasion, she returned to the doctor complaining of stomach cramps and thrush. Mr Fitzgerald told the court that the defendant ‘asked her to open her legs and he put his finger inside her and started to move it around in a circular motion. ‘She felt he was touching her in a sexual way.’
Patient B, 16, saw the GP with breathlessness. ‘He put the stethoscope on her left breast and massaged the breast with the stethoscope,’ Mr Fitzgerald said. ‘She felt disturbed by how the defendant behaved.’
Patient C, 20, saw the defendant for a sore throat and later suspected tonsillitis. The court heard that he touched her breast while listening to her chest with a stethoscope. Mr Fitzgerald said: ‘During the second appointment he lifted her jumper and bra, exposing her left breast and lifted it with his hand and repeated with the right breast and said: “Your chest is fine”.’
Patient D, 8, had a chest infection when she attended an appointment with her mother. The prosecution alleged Ragupathy touched her inner thighs and between her legs, despite their being ‘no good reason for this. ‘He simply took his chance to touch her this way,’ Mr Fitzgerald said.
Patient E, 13, an asthmatic smoker, saw the GP with a chest infection. It was claimed Ragupathy would use his stethoscope to caress the girl’s nipple. Two years later she saw him again while pregnant and with flu symptoms. ‘The defendant locked the door and began to feel all over her breasts,’ Mr Fitzgerald told the court.
Patient F was wheezing when she saw Ragupathy. The prosecution alleged the GP ‘placed the stethoscope on her right breast and asked if she was in a relationship.’
Patient G had a thigh rash. ‘The defendant pulled her knickers to one side,’ Mr Fitzgerald told the court. ‘He just took the chance, which he saw as a sexual opportunity.’ After patient G returned with with bruising inflicted by her boyfriend, ‘the defendant put his hands inside the waistband of her jeans and pulled them towards him and asked: “What colour knickers have you got on?”‘ Mr Fitzgerald told the court.
Patient H, 36, was three months pregnant when she saw Ragupathy for the first time. ‘He announced he needed to check her breasts while holding out his cupped hands,’ Mr Fitzgerald said. ‘He said he needed to check if she was able to breast feed.’
Patient I, 40, had a rash and was visited at home by the defendant, who was also employed by an out-of-hours service. ‘The defendant asked her to sit on his lap so he could listen to her chest and later made a comment about making a woman of her,’ Mr Fitzgerald told the court. ‘He then went to his car for some medical cream and rubbed it into her chest.’
Ragupathy was arrested and questioned in March and December 2010. ‘He denied sexually motivated contact with his patients,’ added Mr Fitzgerald.
Secret EU deal forces Britain to take in 12,000 Indian workers despite soaring unemployment
Brussels has drawn up a secret diktat which could force Britain to admit 12,000 workers from India despite soaring unemployment at home. The order is part of an EU-wide plan to boost trade with India. EU officials say that, in return for opening up the jobs market, countries such as Britain will be helped to land lucrative export deals.
But, of 40,000 workers who will be allowed to live and work in Europe, Britain has been told it must take 12,000, according to leaked EU documents. This is far more than any other EU nation – and twice the number which will be permitted France. Even Germany, which has one of the world’s largest economies, will admit only 8,000 workers.
The Indian migrants, who can live and work in Britain for six months, will be in addition to people given visas under Britain’s supposedly strict immigration cap.
This is despite the EU not normally being allowed to meddle in Britain’s border controls. It comes at a time when UK unemployment is close to a 17-year high, at 2.67million.
The negotiations on the India deal – which have been led by Vince Cable’s Business Department – have been going on in the shadows for years. A large number of the beneficiaries will be IT workers, who already arrive in large numbers from India.
Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch, said: ‘The (negotiations) are quite clearly against the interests of British workers at a time of very high unemployment. ‘That, presumably, is why the government has been keeping quiet about them. ‘The six month limit, although completely unenforceable, keeps them out of the official immigration figures. However, in practice, this agreement, if signed, would open the door for thousands of new migrants. ‘Of particular concern is our IT workforce – already being undercut by Indian IT companies – which will be put under further pressure.’
The details emerged in a leaked copy of the EU/India Free Trade Agreement, which is due to be signed later this year. It was first initiated by Former Trade Commissioner Lord Mandelson in 2007. The aim is to encourage greater export trade between the EU and India.
Central to the agreement is the EU’s offer on what is known as ‘Mode 4’, which will allow Indian companies to bring temporary workers into the EU. The EU has proposed that, overall, 40,000 Indian workers will be admitted without any labour market test as to their impact on the resident workforce. The proposal is for each member state to take a proportion of the EU commitment.
The UK allocation of 12,000 is 30 per cent of the total – despite the UK making up only 12 per cent of the EU’s population.
Critics points out that, although the proposed stay in the UK is limited to six months, there are currently no checks on departure nor obligations on employers to ensure that migrants return home. A six month period means no tax or National Insurance will be paid in the UK.
The 12,000 is only a minimum commitment, rather than a ceiling. The worker are in addition to the current cap of 20,700 work permits given to non-EU skilled migrants. Instead, the visas would be issued under the -so-called ‘International Agreements’ category of the immigration system. Last year only 453 visas were issued under this route.
Ministers are desperately struggling to hit the Prime Minister’s target of reducing net migration – the difference between the number of people arriving in the UK, and those leaving – to the ‘tens of thousands’. Currently, net migration stands close to a record high at 250,000.
However, only migrants who move to Britain for 12 months or more are included in this total. This means the Indian workers will never register in the figures.
Historic reform ‘to end culture of welfare payments being seen as an acceptable alternative to work’ finally becomes law in Britain
David Cameron today hailed an ‘historic step’ in ending Britain’s benefits culture as the Government’s flagship Welfare Reform Bill finally became law.
The Prime Minister said the measures to curb welfare dependency would help get people back to work and start to turn around the something-for-nothing culture encouraged by Labour.
The Welfare Reform Bill cleared its final hurdle in the Lords last night despite bitter opposition from Labour and some Church of England bishops.
The legislation brings in a £26,000-a-year cap on the total amount of benefits any family can claim and introduces new curbs to a number of long-term benefits.
The Prime Minister said: ‘Today marks an historic step in the biggest welfare revolution in over 60 years.
‘These reforms will change lives for the better, giving people the help they need, while backing individual responsibility so that they can escape poverty, not be trapped in it.
‘Past governments have talked about reform, while watching the benefits bill sky-rocket and generations languish on the dole and dependency. This Government is delivering it.
‘Our new law will mark the end of the culture that said a life on benefits was an acceptable alternative to work.’
The Prime Minister paid tribute to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who faced fierce criticism from charities and pressure groups to water down the legislation.
He added: ‘We’ve stood up against the abuse that left taxpayers footing the bills for people on £30,000 or even £50,000 a year in benefits.
‘It’s a fair principle: a family out of work on benefits shouldn’t be paid more than the average family in work. ‘This is a core part of the Government’s task of turning around the legacy of debt, overspending and waste we inherited.
‘We want money to go to people who need it, not subsidising the consequences of our broken society. By reforming welfare we will get people into fulfilling jobs – not abandon them to poverty and dependency – save billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and make sure those who really need help get it.’
The Bill had a stormy passage through the Lords, with peers inflicting seven defeats on the Government when the legislation was first considered and a further one after MPs had overturned all the setbacks.
The most prominent came when the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer led a move to exempt child benefit from the £26,000 cap.
Tory MP David Davies today pointed out that the Church of England pays its bishops’ chauffeurs significantly less than the £26,000 still on offer to some benefits claimants. MPs were told that the Church’s 19 drivers are employed at a total cost of £352,719 – an average of £18,500.
Mr Davies said the clergy were morally obliged to pay their drivers at least as much as a household can receive in benefits.
The Monmouth MP said: ‘The Welfare Reform Bill has just become an Act. Those bishops who voted against this, who voted to ensure people who are not working should earn more than £26,000, should now feel a moral imperative to pay their chauffeurs accordingly.’
Conservative Tony Baldry, representing the Church Commissioners, said being driven around ‘helps ensure the best use of bishops’ time’.
African couple in London guilty of ‘witch’ murder of boy
Ain’t multiculturalism grand?
A LONDON soccer coach and his fiancee were found guilty overnight of the brutal murder of the woman’s 15-year-old brother, who they believed was a witch.
Eric Bikubi and his partner Magalie Bamu, both 28, subjected Kristy Bamu to four days of torture until he drowned in their apartment in Manor Park, east London, on Christmas Day 2010, after suffering 101 different injuries.
The boy had travelled with his two brothers and two sisters from Paris to stay with Bikubi and Bamu, but the couple turned on Kristy, who was singled out after wetting his pants.
They became convinced the boy was possessed, and when the teenager refused to admit to sorcery and witchcraft his punishments in a “deliverance” ceremony became more horrendous.
He was tortured for days with knives, sticks, metal bars, and a hammer and chisel until he “begged to die”. He drowned in the couple’s bath during a final ritual of deliverance.
The killers both hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo where belief in witchcraft, or “kindoki”, is particularly strong.
The Old Bailey jury was told there was an “armory of weapons” at the couple’s home, including several knives, a metal bar, wooden poles, a pair of blood-stained pliers, a hammer, a chisel, broken ceramic tiles and a blood-stained mop.
The two sisters aged 20 and 11, were beaten along with Kristy, but escaped further attacks after “confessing” to being witches.
All four of Kristy’s siblings, including a 13-year-old boy and an autistic brother aged 22, were starved and made to stay awake for four days by Bikubi and Bamu, who forced them to pray and join in the torture of their brother.
At one point, Bikubi told the youngsters to jump out of the couple’s eighth floor window to see if they could fly, the court heard.
They looked to their older sister to save them, but she encouraged Bikubi and beat Kristy until he also confessed to witchcraft.
The defendants, who denied murder, were remanded in custody to be sentenced on Tuesday.
Judge David Paget told the jury of seven women and five men that the case was so “harrowing” he was exempting them from jury service for the rest of their lives.
A statement from Kristy’s father, Pierre, was read outside court overnight.
He said, “Kristy died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of people he loved and trusted, people we all loved and trusted. I feel betrayed. How could they accuse, judge and sentence? To know that Kristy’s own sister, Magalie, did nothing to save him makes the pain that much worse”.
Smoking, drinking teens are the unhappiest of all…. and fruit and veg is the secret to a good life
This is just a study of social class. It’s mainly working class people who smoke, for instance, and being working class in Britain is not a happy experience
Teenagers who smoke, drink alcohol and eat junk food are significantly more likely to be unhappy than their clean- living counterparts, a study has found.
About 5,000 children were questioned on their appearance, family, friends, school and life as a whole, and had their happiness levels rated. Researchers discovered that those who never drank alcohol were between four and six times more likely to have higher levels of happiness than those who did, while those who shunned cigarettes were about five times more likely to have high happiness scores than young smokers.
The authors of the study, based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, used data from Understanding Society, a long-term study of 40,000 UK households, to analyse the home life and health-related behaviour of about 5,000 ten to 15-year-olds.
Their results found that unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol and not taking exercise were closely linked to substantially lower happiness scores, even when factors such as family income and parents’ education were taken into account.
Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables, and less eating of crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks, was associated with high happiness levels. Also, the children who played a lot of sport were deemed happier.
Cara Booker, co-author of the research, said that children could be turning to damaging vices to cope with their unhappiness. She said: ‘Another explanation could be that youths who smoke and drink first fit themselves into certain groups that tend to be unhappier, and then they find themselves unhappy. It becomes a vicious cycle.
‘It’s probably a combination of both. Some will take up smoking because they want to feel more adult, but then find themselves hanging out with people who are less happy and then they become less happy.
‘But if you’re participating in sports and have a social group who are also interested in the same things, you’re happier versus not doing much of anything.’
The study found that between the ages of 13 and 15, teenagers’ food consumption became unhealthier – only 11 per cent reported eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day – and their participation in exercise fell. And the figures for alcohol consumption revealed 8 per cent of ten to 12-year-olds admitted having had an alcoholic drink within the last month, rising to 41 per cent among 13 to 15-year-olds.
Dr Booker added: ‘The message [to teenagers] is that you need to be as healthy as possible, and participating in more adult behaviour such as smoking and drinking is not necessarily going to make you happier.’
Can American universities help break down Britain’s social barriers?
As the cost of going to university soars, British students may find Ivy League colleges a cheaper alternative.
There used to be, in the not-so-distant past, stereotypes of American and British university education that went something like this: American students, except for the really rich ones, had to borrow their way through higher education, flipping burgers into the wee small hours just to make ends meet. British students, by contrast, were lucky. Even wealthy ones had their tuition fees paid by the state, and most could expect help with living costs in the form of grants. They left university virtually debt-free, ready to enjoy the fruits of a career bought with a solid 2:1 in Economics and Something Else. That situation is being turned on its head.
Britain is now the place to acquire a socking great graduate debt, with tuition fees commonly £9,000 per year and loans taking the place of grants. A British student can borrow up to £50,000 from the taxpayer to finance his or her degree, ensuring a relative level of indebtedness not unlike that confronting the Greek finance minister. But win a place at Harvard or Yale, or one of the many wealthy higher education institutions in the United States, and you could walk away with no debt at all. So generous are the scholarships available at Ivy League universities that some even cover flights home.
Sir Peter Lampl wants to offer this opportunity to talented youngsters from British comprehensives, and has organised a summer school at Yale to help potential applicants master the US system. The founder of the Sutton Trust, which aims to extend educational opportunity to those from low-income households, the businessman believes American universities are part of the answer to a British higher-education funding regime that threatens to re-erect social barriers.
“We are not talking about the kid who will go to Liverpool John Moores or the University of East London, we are talking about those who can make it to Oxford, Cambridge or Bristol,” he says. “We are aiming at the very selective American universities, the Ivy League. I think people who come out of these universities are better prepared for a career. They have more breadth and depth and have studied a wider range of subjects. You get to look at another culture, and you also become part of a very powerful alumni network. A lot of parents are choosing to send their kids to an American university rather than a British one.”
Each year some 4,500 British students take up undergraduate places at American universities and colleges, 80 per cent of them from private schools. That is a drop in the ocean compared with the half-million applicants of all ages accepted each year by Britain’s 300 universities and colleges, but it is significant in terms of elite institutions, such as those of the Russell Group.
A quarter of sixth-formers at Wellington College in Berkshire are expected to opt for an American university this year, but for pupils from state schools the US entry system is a daunting prospect. The summer school at Yale is meant to help, providing advice on the SAT –the Standard Aptitude Test – which applicants must sit. Applicants must also provide a school record, personal statement and references.
Josh McTaggart, from Weston-super-Mare, studied at sixth-form college and was offered a place at University College London, but chose Harvard instead. He receives some £35,000 a year in help from the university, which this year will award £100 million in “needs-based” grants to 60 per cent of its students.
“It’s cheaper to study in the US than London,” says Josh, who hopes to graduate with debts of hundreds rather than thousands of pounds. “Studying at Harvard has opened up a world of opportunity, yet in doing so I haven’t been crippled by debt. I receive a financial aid scholarship that covers the entirety of my costs. This aid is needs-based and, since my household income is under £30,000, I am entitled to full cover.”
In opting for Harvard, Josh has bypassed a British system that threatens to become more polarised as costs escalate. Pupils whose parents earn less than £25,000 a year are eligible for maintenance grants to help meet living costs, but the prospect of a debt measured in the tens of thousands can only be a deterrent to poor families.
The middle classes are also beginning to suffer. There has been a 2.5 per cent fall in university applications by pupils from the wealthiest fifth of households, part of a five per cent decline overall.
“Loading up low and middle-income kids with debt is not a good idea,” says Sir Peter, who after grammar school and Oxford made millions in management consultancy and private equity. “I talk to American friends and they say, ‘What are you doing loading up these kids with debt? We wouldn’t do that.’ The average level of graduate debt in America is far lower than people think – £16,000. So it’s lower than for our kids.”
At £40,000 a year for some courses, Harvard’s fees are vastly higher than British ones, but the university’s wealth allows it to indulge students it considers worthy of admission. Harvard’s endowment fund – investments bought with donations from alumni and other bodies – stands at more than £20 billion, greater by far than all the endowment funds controlled by British universities.
Those of Cambridge (£4 billion) and Oxford (£3 billion) are the only ones in the UK that bear comparison with the US sector. Edinburgh, in third place, comes in well below £200 million. Yale, second to Harvard in wealth, enjoys an endowment of some £12 billion, the fruit of long-term relationships with alumni and generous tax breaks for donors.
“If you go to Yale and you come from a family earning less than £40,000, you come out of there completely debt-free,” says Sir Peter. “If your family is earning over £150,000 a year, you pay full whack. In between, they means-test. For a lower-income kid it is very attractive.
“Kids who haven’t been lighting up the school board with A-levels can do very well on the American SAT. I spent half a day on the Harvard selections committee and saw how much they take background into account. The Ivy League universities don’t get many applications from British comprehensive kids and they would like more.
“A diverse student body is one of their objectives. You don’t have a class system over there like you do here. It’s much easier for a working-class kid to integrate into an American university because he’s not pigeonholed in the same way.”
Not that American higher education is free of social elitism. There has long been a taste, never expressed overtly, for “library builders”, applicants from super-wealthy families prepared to stump up the cost of an infrastructure project to ensure admission. Preference is also given to children of alumni.
“This is going to be a big success,” says Sir Peter of the summer school. “We’re doing what the Americans call soup to nuts, getting the kids in for orientation in London in June, then out to the States in July.”
He hopes it will be the beginning of something big. But the question is, why should it be necessary?
British school music lessons with no… music
Thousands of school music lessons involve barely a note of music, a damning report revealed today. Ofsted inspectors condemned poor standards of music education in English schools after discovering that classes are dominated by teachers talking and written exercises. Pupils are given few opportunities to play or listen to music or sing, they found.
‘Put simply, in too many cases there was not enough music in music lessons,’ the report said. ‘In many instances there was insufficient emphasis on active music-making or on the use of musical sound as the dominant language of learning. ‘Too much use was made of verbal communication and non-musical activities.’
Inspectors observed music lessons 184 primary, secondary and special schools. They found that standards had barely improved since the last inspection of music provision three years ago.
Nearly two thirds of schools were failing to provide a good standard of music education – and lessons in one in five were ‘inadequate’.
‘In too many of the lessons observed, teachers spent significant amounts of time talking pupils through lengthy learning objectives that were not related to the language of musical sound,’ the report said.
‘Survey evidence showed, very clearly, that pupils made the most musical progress when they were taught in music, rather than about music.’
Even in instrumental lessons, too much teaching was poor. Inspectors found examples where ensembles were allowed to carry on making a ‘dreadful sound’. In some cases, teachers had not shown children how to hold instruments correctly – and couldn’t even hold them properly themselves.
Boys were significantly less likely to take part in orchestras, choirs and ensembles than girls. Just 14 per cent of primary school boys were involved, against 32 per cent of girls.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said: ‘Inspectors looking at music teaching in nearly 200 schools saw quality ranging from outstandingly good to extremely poor.
Too often, inspectors simply did not see enough music in music lessons. ‘Too much use was made of non-musical activities such as writing without any reference to musical sound.
‘Too much time was spent talking about tasks without teachers actually demonstrating what was required musically, or allowing the pupils to get on with their music making.’
In one lesson seen by inspectors, pupils simply copied down information about Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash rather than taking part in a musical activity.
The report said: ‘In one class seen by inspectors, pupils spent the first 20 minutes of a one-hour lesson – the only music lesson of the week for many students – completing “written tasks about the life and work of Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash, using printed ‘factsheets’ from which they had to extract and copy information”.’