Monthly Archives: October 2010

One in ten of Oxford students from 13 schools

OXFORD’s Brideshead image may be clichéd, but the news that ten percent of the University’s undergraduates come from just 13 top private schools will do little to discourage it.

More than half of school-leavers from Westminster, St Paul’s Girls School and Wycombe Abbey were successful in securing a place at Oxford last year, figures obtained by The Oxford Student show.

Such schools charge up to £29,000 a year in return for the promise of smaller class sizes and better resources. Many give their students several mock interviews, while some have dedicated staff to deal with the Oxbridge admissions process.

The schools that comprise 10 percent of the 2009 intake are: City of London School for Girls, Cheltenham Ladies College, Eton, Harrow, Magdalen College School, North London Collegiate School, The Perse, Guildford’s Royal Grammar School, St Paul’s boys and girls schools, Westminster, Withington and Wycombe.

Simon Wood, publicity officer for the Target Schools campaign to increase state school applications, said: “This is a disturbing statistic that shows that in reality only 80 percent of spaces are open to applicants from anywhere, state or private, other than the elite public schools.

“Clearly some of this is down to natural ability and encouragement from an early age, but the fact that the level of public school admissions is so high gives the lie to the notion that ability alone will get you into Oxford.”

Westminster alone supplied almost five percent of the University’s undergraduates last year, far outstripping any other school.

Former student Vyvyan Almond, who is now studying History at Magdalen, is sure his schooling made a sizeable impact on the success of her application.

“We were prepared in separate classes for the interviews and aptitude tests, using old Oxford papers. Some of us even travelled to Eton to stimulate the experience of an interview.

“My primary emotion on opening my acceptance letter was relief. If I had not applied to Oxford, or not been accepted, I think I would have felt myself to have failed,” he said.

The picture is somewhat different at many state schools. Although Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School consistently ranks highly in national league tables, it typically sends only five students to Oxford out of a year group of 140.

Beverley Johnstone, one of the school’s English teachers, thinks her students lose out. “State school students are massively disadvantaged, not because teachers in the private sector are any better but because they have such smaller class sizes. We often have over 20 students in an A-level class – we just can’t devote the same amount of time to our students.

“When it comes to university interviews, students from private schools have a greater sense of ease, and they have a feeling of entitlement which state school pupils lack,” she said.

Overall, state school pupils are narrowly in the majority at Oxford, although private school entrants are still vastly overrepresented. Applicants are much more likely to be successful if they apply from a private school too. While independent school pupils made up only 39 percent of applicants in 2009, they comprise 46 percent of acceptances.

An Oxford University spokeswoman said: “There are a whole range of factors stretching back to birth and beyond that affect someone’s ability and potential at age 17 or 18 when they are applying to Oxford. Oxford cannot compensate for a lifetime of inequality but it is doing its best to ensure all those with the potential to succeed apply, regardless of background.”

New Band Of The Week: Losers

Sounds like: Soulwax Nite Versions, Vitalic

In a nutshell: A partnership between XFM DJ Eddy Temple-Morris and ex-Cooper Temple Clause guitarist and programmer Tom Bellamy, Losers bridge the gap between electro and grinding rock.

In their own words:  “Eddy is responsible for the corruption of thousands of former rockers. Tom is a wild techno-noise guitar legend. Together, they are Losers.”

Best song: Smarmy bass-line, silly use of a vocoder and electronics come together to make something inexplicably cool in ‘No Man Is An Island (Losers Theme)’.

Fact: The duo have remixed The Prodigy, Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, The Gossip and Placebo, amongst others.

Live: Camden’s Koko on 6th November

Thespionage

Oi! Wankers! Yank your gobs off each others phalluses, it’s time for the weekly “Why I Hate  All and Want You to Choke on Your Smug Self-Indulgence” AKA: actually, that’s just pretty much what we all call it now.

What’s on the slab today? Well, first up I can finally stop talking about Foiled Brunt of the Dumb, as by the time you read this it should be mostly through. Apparently it was quite good, so all the best for getting drunk at the afterparty and forgetting that nobody cares.

Did anyone see Silence, sorry, S1L3NC3 last week? Boy oh boy, was it twisted as anything, there was one point where he, like, totally dropped some pennies! I was just sad he wouldn’t let me help him with any of the self-harm tricks. I was a totally willing volunteer to help him harm himself. In all fairness, there was one lovely trick where he swallowed a live hamster and, after it had chewed through his stomach, it burst out wearing a little party hat – it was adorable!
Apparently The Dream Play is having trouble squeezing money out of OUDS. I can think of someone else in that position. A little someone by the name of absolutely everybody. Must be tough for them, though, enough man power to build the Titanic, but no money to buy ice. Seriously, guys, you must have over 50 people involved, I’m going to have to make a manpower sex joke soon, and none of us want that.

Hold on, I smell fear. Freshers? Here? Ridiculous. No fresher’s going to read the hateful screen-chewings of a mescaline-addled ex-thesp, unless… Oh course! Cuppers is coming! And the NWF, I suppose, but there won’t be as much supple young flesh in that, probably more supple young… paper? Memory Sticks? Keyboards? What do you young people use to write plays these days? Whatever.

Ok kids. First rule of Cuppers:  do not talk about cuppers. Seriously, just keep that stuff to yourself: it’s a bad idea, poorly executed, with atrocious acting and the less I know, the happier you’ll be. Trust me.

The second rule of Cuppers: don’t piss yourself. It may seem like a good idea when you’re on stage under the hawk-like gaze of the judges but… ah, who am I kidding? Knock yourself out. Piss like a king, I guarantee they’ll have seen worse that day.
Jonny Sims

Frenching on stage

At turns funny, moving and absurd, this staging of Cyrano is a big entrepot of anarchic fun. We all know the plot, but word limits are word limits: Christian (Sam Lysons) is a young moron who comes to Paris and falls in love with Roxane (Anna Maguire) because he sees her and immediately falls in love (obviously). Cyrano de Bergerac (Joe Eyre), a massively overendowed man in an unfortunate place (the nose department) is also in love with Roxane, although he actually knows what she’s like. Roxane loves Christian because she’s seen him and never spoken to him (obviously) so Cyrano helps Christian get together with her and then World War One happens and I got confused.

I brought a friend, and at first she wanted to leave. A play with a large number of characters, this version uses just five actors to portray every part, with only a few gloves, hats and so on to delineate the character changes. At first this was confusing, and the over-the-top style of the play had about it the gentle whiff of ham. But within a short while, the rampant, camp absurdity of it all became quite wonderful.

The actors did a great job of portraying multiple characters, with especial credit going to Sarah Anson who switched from a French lout (apparently they have those) to the captain of the guard to a simpering maid. Cyrano himself was excellent, both hilarious and moving, with the one problem being that the character is meant to be hideous and large-nosed, whereas Eyre’s conk is well formed and the rest of his face isn’t much to sniff at. Or, to quote the person I brought along, “But he’s a fittie!” A massive prosthetic nose will sort this out, one can only imagine.

The rest of the cast were similarly excellent, with Matt Gavan as De Guiche portraying venality and positively exuding inappropriate lech.
What’s more, it’s genuinely funny. The scene where Christian is prompted by Cyrano through the medium of mime had me giggling like a schoolgirl, and the French cadets’ boastful introduction, acted so hard I was afraid the cast might pop like thespian balloons, stand out as particular examples. The physicality of the cast combines with the exaggerated (rhyming) dialogue to contribute a smorgasbord of hilarity.

What happens later in the play I do not know, and don’t want to find out because I intend to see this at the BT, by hook or by crook. Potential spoiler: either Christian gets with Roxane, or Cyrano does, or de Guiche, or they all die, or Roxane dies (or the entire cast die). Either way, this is a wonderful, energetic, amusing, moving interpretation; you will laugh and cry.

Alex Harvey

The Oxford Student

Oxford's Newspaper since 1991