A school in Hackney has become the first in the country to offer a course in middleclassness. The Progression Improvement and Skills School (PISS) has introduced the course following the failure of some academically able students to get into top universities.
Units cover a broad range of topics, from ‘Why old houses are better than new ones’ to ‘What kind of pubs are OK to go into’ and ‘People and things to sneer at’.
‘It was confusing to begin with,’ said Katie Adams, a student at PISS. ‘Like, why are pubs better if the chairs don’t match? And why is it bad to have labels on the outside of your clothes and shoes, unless they say Converse or Camper? There were a lot of things I didn’t get.’
Michael Wiggins, Principal at PISS, admits that the course is challenging. ‘The unit on why old houses are better than new ones is especially tough. Students struggle with the idea that this rule doesn't apply in London, where house prices mean that any dwelling down to a disused public convenience or old shipping container may now be considered an acceptable option for a middleclass family, but only if a wood-burning stove is installed and handmade bunting hung.’
There are practical elements to the course, too. Students regularly visit Waitrose, where they are required to show that they can tell the difference between salsify and samphire and that they can be sufficiently patronising to checkout staff, saying ‘I don’t need a bag’ as loudly as possible, while cramming their over-packaged, airfreighted avocados into a wicker basket.
‘We have had some real breakthroughs,’ says Wiggins. ‘Just last week a parent rang me to say that his daughter had persuaded him to get sash windows fitted in their house. He’s taken on an extra night shift to pay for it. Just fantastic.’
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Josie Morris, 15, dropped out of the course after struggling with much of the content. ‘I don’t care what anyone says. Shopping at fifteen different independent shops instead of going to Asda is a massive pain in the arse,’ she complained. ‘Nowhere sells pollock. And goats’ milk tastes like knob cheese.’ For students like Josie, who cannot handle the course, it is back to the mainstream classroom where they can spend the next two years playing on their phones with post-it notes bearing the words ‘Triple Entente’ stuck to their foreheads.
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