On the art of correspondence

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Making a complaint and then copying the letter to the newspapers is a time-honoured and dastardly practice - and one we warmly welcome.

Enter Paul and Linda Gregory, who took up the case of their son, Alastair, with Herefordshire college of art and design to complain about his treatment when interviewed as a prospective student there.

The correspondence, which has found its way to my pigeon-hole, shows that poor Alastair rather had his hands tied behind his back when he went for his little chat - his previous place of study, Beckfoot school in West Yorkshire (slogan: "achieving together") had managed to lose his art portfolio.

His parents' complaint is not with the school, but rather that he wasn't paid enough attention by the college at his interview.

The Gregorys are no slouches themselves. Their letter to the college shows that they have two degrees, a teaching qualification and an MBA between them.

It complains that Alastair's "so-called interview" destroyed his "self-esteem and confidence", that he was "disempowered" by the experience and that, as a result, he is "reconsidering his entry into all further or higher education".

Oh dear. How does a principal respond to such a letter, knowing the reply is also likely to find its way to the newspapers?

Richard Heatly, the principal, wrote thus: "I feel that we offer generous treatment to all candidates. If you know of many institutions who are able to devote more than 20 minutes to each individual, then I suggest you have found rather better-funded places than this college. I believe Oxford and Cambridge are still in this fortunate position."

Nicely recovered.

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