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Short Story: Next Term We'll Mash You

The Irish novelist, poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde once wrote: "Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely if ever do they forgive them."

In this short story, adapted to a radio play, Penelope Lively (1933-) introduces us to the world of private education, with its snob appeal and hidden fears when Charlie’s parents are going to choose a prep school for their son.

Private education plays a much larger part in England than in Norway, as about ten per cent of English school children go to private schools (called prep schools up to around age 13, followed by public schools until the age of 18). Some of these are day schools, which means that the children live at home. Others are boarding schools where pupils only go home at weekends or in the holidays.

Private schools are exclusive, in the sense that they charge high fees - up to £30,000 annually for boarding schools - thus making it virtually impossible for others than comparatively well-off parents or parents who are willing to make financial sacrifices to send their children to such schools.

The author of this story started out as a writer of children’s books, but is now recognized as one of Britain's leading contemporary novelists. She spent the first 12 years of her life in Egypt before being sent off to a boarding school in England. It is likely that “Next Term We’ll Mash You” mirrors her personal experience.

Next Term we_ll Mash you - audio

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Next Term We'll Mash You – plain text

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Further Reading

To learn more about public schools and private education, you may check out this English Public Schools - Interview .

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