But now pupils at one of Britain’s most prestigious boarding schools are being trained to man phones in a makeshift call centre. Sixth-formers at The Cheltenham Ladies’ College (CLC) – where fees are more than £31,000 a year – are being asked to cold-call former pupils, asking them to donate money for school bursaries.
The girls, who are in their final year or have just left school, undergo two days’ training by an outside company on the school’s grounds in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. They have three weeks at school to work through a list of likely benefactors, selected from a database of ex-pupils.
Reading from a script and armed with the sort of charm that comes with years of top-class education, the pupils try to persuade old girls to part with their money. One former pupil who was contacted said: ‘The first call came as my husband and I were about to sit down to supper. I said it was a bad time, so asked the girl to call back the following week. ‘She called at around 9pm and said she was doing so on behalf of CLC. She’d obviously got all my details about what I’d gone on to do in my career, so she gave me a whole lot of guff about that and then the conversation tailed off.
‘Eventually I said, “You don’t really want to speak to me about that, do you love?” She said, “Not really”, and then she launched into a speech about how the school needed money for bursaries.
‘I said that while I had some sympathy, my priorities as far as charitable donations were concerned lay with starving and desperately ill children, not £30,000- a-year school fees. ‘She said she understood my feelings and admitted, “I’ve had similar conversations with others.”â€…’
The 156-year-old school has a reputation for turning out con fident, capable women – most of whom are destined for top universities and high- flying careers.
Former pupils include historian Lisa Jardine, former newspaper editor Rosie Boycott and actress Kristin Scott Thomas. The school’s motto on its crest translates as ‘May she grow in heavenly light’.
A spokesman for the school said: ‘This is the third telephone campaign we’ve run here. It’s to raise funds for bursaries. The last was in 2006 and then two years before that. We’ve carefully selected a list from old girls. They may have donated before, or their donations may have lapsed.’
In 2006 the phone campaign was aimed at raising funds for a 330-seat performing arts centre costing £5.5â€…million.
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