Wednesday, 16 May 2018

What do you Mean "A Uni that isn't UEA"?

The Hampstead School Sixth Form, like any other Sixth Form in the country, is supposed to get the best out of each and every student whilst also preparing them for life at University or wherever they choose to go afterwards.

Looking at the Sixth Form Alumni mugshots along the staircases of the English Block (I believe they now call it the West Block but that's probably a bourgeois conspiracy), you can see that of the 70-odd ex-students, only two went to Oxbridge. Many students didn't even go to Russell Group institutions, let alone leave London.

There are many reasons why many ex-students haven't left London, but a significant one has to be the fact that the school doesn't provide such an opportunity to view other Universities. In the course of the last 12 months, two opportunities have been provided - if that - to allow all Sixth Form students to explore the option of higher education: A trip to the University of East Anglia (UEA), and a UCAS conference. To be quite honest, there is no point in going into how much of a shambolic waste of time both trips usually are, so I won't do that. Instead, it would be more useful to think about what the school could do.

This begins with a really horrible idea: asking students which of their subjects interest them the most. Tailoring specific guidance for students allows a clearer idea of what students can do at University, or even give them an idea of where to go to study. I'm not stuck under a rock and know that you can't take each student to a specific University; that would just be ridiculous. However, asking students where they'd like to look at or what they'd like to study and then providing a range of different types of experiences may prove more helpful.

Higher education is not a "one size fits all" decision. Taking an entire year group to a 2-hour tour of a university that many will not apply to, or a convention where not enough time is allocated to allow students to ask the questions to the universities they would like, helps nobody. Equally, the school's university-centred experiences of higher education completely alienate those students who would be better suited on a vocational course or apprenticeship.

If students are to get onto the right course at the right institution, the school must be aware that there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to higher education, nor do many have the means or foresight to have these experiences of their own accord.

DISCLAIMER: This is a critical article and so is comprised of the opinions of the author.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Local Education

With local council elections on the horizon, major party groups in Camden have released their manifestos for the next four years. As the local education policies put forward with have a noticeable effect on Camden pupils, we thought we would look at what the main parties in the area are pledging.

Under the heading "Camden Labour's record" in their manifesto they state: "We have invested £86 million into 48 schools and children's centres so our young people have state-of-the-art buildings to learn in. We set up Camden Learning to protect what makes Camden education special - local authority comprehensive schools, connected to our communities."

Where exactly this £86m has come from or gone is unbeknownst to us; the Council's budget sheet only tells us that the council has contributed ~£6.9m towards the borough's schools, out of a budget of ~£198m this year. Perhaps they are referring to the new building in Hampstead they were mandated and paid for by the government, although "state-of-the-art buildings" are only as good as their second-hand contents. Or perhaps they are referring to the money they get anyway from the government through Pupil Premiums. What they certainly haven't been spending is local parent's council taxes on making their kids' lives easier; the C11 bus route that ferries children to and from Hampstead has been cut in service with nothing being done by the council.

Despite claiming that local comprehensives are "what makes Camden education special", a comprehensive school hasn't been set up in Camden in quite a while, despite the apparent need for one "south of Euston road". In fact, whilst Labour have been in office, the only new secondary has been UCL Academy, an - you guessed it - academy. And as for schools like Hampstead being "connected to our communities", we would first need our Head to be at least connected to reality.

Labour's pledges for the next term seem to be pretty much to keep up what they are doing, rather than anything new, which may disappoint many young voters who would like some Corbyn-esque policies coming to the local area. By contrast, the Conservative manifesto pledges that they will "raise school standards by encouraging leadership by Camden School for Girls and UCL Academy and help top-performing pupils apply to Russell Group universities", will "ensure computing and coding are taught in all schools throughout Camden and "will increase employability by encouraging apprenticeships, organising more work fairs, and encouraging continuing professional development in the borough." Quite why CSG and UCLA are the local standard bearers for the Tories, especially since neither are run by the council and lowly comps are capable of sending students off to top unis, albeit fewer in number, is beyond us. Equally, whilst "encouraging apprenticeships" is all well and good, finding more for students to apply for it is better.

The Tories also pledge that they "will review how our schools serve our worst-off, including raising the take-up of free school meals and improving cooperation between independent and state schools." Obviously, pooling resources between local schools of any kind can be force for good, however it is a short and slippery slope to private schools giving handouts for comprehensives.

The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, have pledged to "Provide better advice and information to 16-25 years olds who do not wish to go to university about training and employment opportunities, including apprenticeships", "Provide free sanitary towels in schools so that girls can continue their education uninterrupted and with dignity, to end ‘period poverty’" and "Work with voluntary organisations and businesses across the borough to develop a coherent offer for young people, which promotes well-being, motivation, skills development, exercise and opportunities", whatever that actually means. They have also said they would push TfL to reverse cuts to the C11 service, work with Brent Council to improve Kilburn High Road, provide better support for the mental health of pupils and extend youth services. One policy that is interesting is that they pledge to "Work with schools to develop inclusive, non-proscriptive, gender neutral school uniform policies", which is something which has posed a problem at Hampstead in the past (see School Denies Boys 'Cultural Dress'). Actually getting Jacques Szhakeshakeshakeyourbootykowski to budge one inch in the direction of liberality on the uniform policy at Hampstead would be a messianic act, and one that we doubt we will live to see.

However, given central government is constantly squeezing local budgets, especially funds for education, how it is exactly that they will pay for all these policies remains to be seen. Whilst there may be room for cuts to local government white elephants, some of these policies may be more aspirational than achievable.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Canteen: Revisited

After visiting the failing eatery 'The Canteen', run by Sam Anella on behalf of investors CaterLink and trying to fix the ailing business, Ramsay revisits the restaurant a month on.

Gordon: (overdubbed) Since I was last here, and the owners of The Canteen failed to take my advice to heart and refused to change their ways. They were intent on selling sweetcorn in small cups, they were adamant that pizzas should be long and thin and many customers were disgruntled when their jelly desserts kept getting smaller and smaller. I had no option but to walk away. Without changing their ways, business has hit an all time low.

[Gordon walks up to closed shutters and knocks on them.]

Gordon: No answer. Last week my team, as well as all those that had depended on The Canteen for lunch, received news that the leaseholders of The Canteen, Hampstead Inc., were removing CaterLink from the plot and closing the place down. Hampstead hopes to reopen the doors to The Canteen after Easter, but who will run it remains unknown.

I have nineteen restaurants open at this moment and sixteen Michelin stars to my name, but I wouldn't open a twentieth here, and I don't know anyone that would. This place has all the ambience of a ****ing mortuary.

[Shot of sad dinnerladies throwing old pizza husks out in large black bin liners, followed by a tiny bag filled with all their jellies, as sad music plays in the background.]

Gordon: The school has promised new furniture, a new menu and a new, healthier outlook in the eatery, but is it all too late?

[Gordon ducks to avoid a passing flurry of bats that come out of a ceiling panel, sidesteps a tuna pasta bake on the floor and storms out.]

Monday, 9 April 2018

Hampstead Home Cooking: Planet Pizza

Fresh from the avant-garde of human dining, Planet Pizza - a Hampstead Home Cooking First has been called a "daring excursion into the emerging field of non-edible food" and "a potentially revolutionary solution to growing plastic disposal problems".

Preparation time
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven".

Cooking Time                       Serves
2hrs                                       Anyone who's tetanus shots are up to date.

Access to a Landfill,
A Shovel,
A Wheel-Barrow,
The Palette of Esteemed German Food Critic Vanders Klein,
Planetary Matter (to be Gathered),
50 Plastic Bags,


1. Shovel dirt, soiled nappies, abandoned electronics and other waste products for hopeless hours in the sun from a landfill into a wheel-barrow.

2. Get your army of slaves to take the wheel-barrow to your car.

3. Sit down in the driver's seat and have the slaves pour the contents of the wheel-barrow all over you.

4. You are now one with the Earth.

5. Repeat steps 1 & 2, except instead of attempting to satisfy your sick desires, get your army of slaves to pour the contents of the wheel-barrow into your car boot.

6. Drive off. Crash dramatically into a lamppost on your street.

7. Get to work --- quickly! --- the police are coming.

8. Put one kilogram of planetary matter into each plastic bag.

9. Shape each plastic bag into something resembling a deep-dish pizza slice.

9. Make a kiln in someone's garden. (Not yours, you idiot!)

10. Light the kiln.

11. Bake the plastic bags for 40 minutes each.

12. Bone apple teeth.

Serving Suggestions

1. Try and look happy about it.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a spoof.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Last Supper (Goodbye to CaterLink)

So after roughly 10 years, countless complaints, endless empty promises by successive School Councils and untold student (and staff) frustrations, Hampstead have finally taken the plunge and gotten rid of CaterLink, who, from the 16th of April, will no longer be responsible for catering at Hampstead. (Concerning who will be responsible for catering, the letter sent home to parents is no more specific than "in-house"). Naturally, we at The Trash join with the student-staff body in being ever-so-slightly overjoyed about not having to eat whatever it is CaterLink get away with serving every day, but serious questions, like is what comes next going to be any better? and why did it take them so long? still loom.

Taking a look at the letter (see below), several things stick out:

  • "The students have a more positive experience of lunching together" -- it would be generous to call this a mistake, it's more like willful ignorance or simply a lie. The canteen is abysmal, (literally) grey, noisy and overcrowded. It's utterly miserable. It's cold because there's no heating and the doors are always being opened, and they force you to take your coats off. When someone walks out, the doors often don't fully shut, so you get gusts of wind and frequent drops in the ambient temperature to go with your cold salad. It's a hassle to find seats and it's a hassle to stop Year 7s from taking them the moment you stand up. Importantly too, previously, for those not in the know, each year had a year room exclusively for their use at lunch and break. Unless I'm seriously missing something, a single year-room-equivalent for the whole school does not make it easier for people to share their lunches and break-times with each other (i.e. most likely people in their classes, their year) than year rooms do. Really, even if certain changes are beyond their control, the school should not be allowed to claim things are getting better when they are actually getting worse.
  • "New furniture and signage to help students make healthy choices at lunchtime" -- they should probably have someone read these things before they send them out to make sure it's not complete nonsense that students are taking home to their parents. It is not clear how exactly the furniture in the Canteen could affect what students choose to eat. Even regarding the furniture itself, unless catering equipment can now be classed as "furniture", there is no new furniture to speak of in the Canteen. In fact, the tables and chairs in the Canteen are direct imports from the old school building, chewing gum encrusted underneath tabletops and all. As for making "healthy choices", the healthiest choice one can probably make at lunch is to forgo whatever Caterlink have got on offer.
  • "More healthy and flavorful options on offer - much requested by the students who were canvassed on their views via questionnaires" -- it's not like students have been expressing their dissatisfaction with Caterlink for years on end; you don't need to do a questionnaire to know that almost (probably just everybody) everybody absolutely loathes their food.
  • "There will be changes in the menu choices offered" -- this we applaud unequivocally, so long as it is for the better. Perhaps the hungry citizens of Hampstead will finally get a taste of Justice and The Good.
It remains to be seen what exactly "in-house" means (are Management planning to set themselves up with a whole other set of jobs, managing a catering company, leading double lives?), but perhaps nothing much will change: the new food could be just as bad as the old.

DISCLAIMER: This is a critical article and so is comprised of the views of the author.