FT reports "elite" schools openly offering up attractive pupils for results day photos

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In case any of you happen to have missed this earlier today (I was tweeting about it during my commute), here are a few interesting snippets of information relating to the annual media cringe-fest that has, in recent years, come to be known as "Sexy A-Levels Day".

As we're all aware, there are certain stories guaranteed to appear in the national media around the middle of August every year, when the nation's Sixth Formers receive their exam results. There's the standard coverage of rising numbers of passes and top grades, complete with outraged opinion pieces on "Why today's exams are worthless and dumbed-down". There's the "Behold! A ludicrously clever family!" story, in which a set of twins or triplets manages about 20 A grades between them. As a variation on this theme we also have "Behold! A ludicrously clever child!" in which we'll meet little Johnny, ten years old and collecting his top marks in maths and further maths.

And then, across local and national papers alike, we'll see almost identical photographs showcasing gangs of attractive blonde girls (with an occasional brunette for variety - if you want to see boys, forget about it) grinning, hugging, jumping up and down and brandishing envelopes.

Last year we saw such photographs compile for the first time on the Sexy A-Levels Tumblr, "a blog exploring the hypothesis that UK newspapers believe that only attractive girls in low-cut tops do A-Levels".

Now last year, someone I know saw that I'd linked this blog and was quick to denounce it as ridiculous. Why would the media do that?! Why would schools want anything to do with it if that was the case?! According to a story appearing in the Financial Times yesterday, schools aren't just happily going along with the media obsession, they're pandering to it.

In "We're just not that kind of newspaper" (free registration required to read), Chris Cook explains that "a little cadre of English private schools compete to supply attractive young women to the national press". He mentions that Bedales School never sends out pictures of its male pupils receiving exam results, and recalls a voicemail message he received from Badminton School last year:

“'Hi Chris, . . .Just wanting to give you some details of some absolutely beyootiful girls we’ve got here who are getting their A-level results tomorrow.'”

It's bad enough that certain schools seem to be promoting students as good "results day" material based on looks, but it gets worse. Cook continues:

"Most alarmingly, another (very grand) private school invited the FT education correspondent to an end-of-year sports event. I was, alas, too busy. It was a shame, I was informed by a senior teacher. He said that watching the girls playing sports would have given me a unique opportunity to pick out promising candidates for A-level day pictures."

How inappropriate. And indeed, creepy. And most likely against the supposed values of such schools, which usually make plenty of noise about an encouraging atmosphere, open-minded acceptance, and support for individuality in the "ethos" sections of their prospectuses.

Image via hammersmithandfulham's Flickr.


Nick said...

*shudders a little*

Anonymous said...

Urgh, how horrible.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I can't say I'm actually surprised. Disappointed, yes. But not really surprised.

Anonymous said...

This is making the sink school inverted snob in me photogenically leap!

Sugarpuss London said...

Very creepy (especially the last point) but, like Rachel, I'm not that surprised... It's the same story whenever schools start working on the school prospectus or on their websites.

tenderhooligan said...

Have tweeted this again for its pertinence today and for the sheer incredible-ness and horrible-ness of it all.


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