Everyone wears what they’ve made with great pride

December 2018

Interview with Bettina Pamp-Mügge, master seamstress in the management team of the Hibernia School’s custom tailoring department where, uniquely in the Waldorf landscape, a dual vocational and general education qualification is offered.

Erziehungskunst | What does the tailoring qualification at the Hibernia School look like?

Bettina Pamp-Mügge | The first training year features courses in the afternoon involving practical lessons in the trades in classes 7-10. Here we have a very broad provision at the Hibernia School. The range of lessons covers the subsequent training courses, that is wood and metal working, textiles, electrics. Then there are many additional courses, for example net making, bookbinding and also computer courses, acting and circus skills, supplemented by a variety of instruction in different locations (work placements and trips). This gives the Hibernia pupils a broad insight into many different types of workshop, working materials and tools. Basic skills are put in place and developed here in an age-appropriate way. Concentration, the ability to work in a team, perseverance and an understanding of work practices are important prerequisites for obtaining the school leaving qualification leading on to vocational training. Specialisation then takes place in classes 11 and 12.

Here the pupils are trained in one of four recognised trades (custom tailor/seamstress, precision engineering technician, carpenter, electronics engineer) in a specialist training that is equivalent to journeyman level. Training as a childcare worker is available as a non-trades occupation. In the specialist training courses, the master trades men and women teaching the pupils adhere to the standard curricula so that in tailoring, for example, the pupils are taught to make a complete set of outer garments. The final equivalent vocational examination then allows the young person to call themselves a custom tailor or seamstress. The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training grants approval to the Hibernia School to do so. There are repeated inspections. In parallel, general education continues before the workshop periods in main lessons and subject lessons, leading to the intermediate-level school leaving certificate at the end of class 12.

Building on these vocational and school-leaving qualifications, most of the pupils then go on to attend Hibernia College where they progress to acquiring their general university entrance qualification. This concludes the educational task of the Hibernia School to educate the personality of the young people in an all-round way.

EK | Do ecological and ethical perspectives play a role in the education?

BPM | In the practical parts and the accompanying specialist vocational classes, the master trades men and women as well as subject teachers use the opportunity to discuss the problem areas relating to the origin of the materials  and the production of clothing. With excess textile production of 40 percent per year, it is impossible to avoid subjects such as fair prices and fair working conditions.

EK | How are you technically set up to be a state-of-the-art training centre?

BPM | We consider ourselves fortunate to boast exceedingly professional equipment with sewing, buttonhole, embroidery and various overlock machines and extensive ironing systems. A workshop such as we have at our school cannot be found in many other places.

EK | How many pupils decide to do this training compared to the other trades and why?

BPM | Every school year the existing training places for the five vocational fields are distributed across the number of pupils of the three classes 11. As a rule, the first or second choice of every pupil can be met. This is mostly the result of inclination, talent and previous experience in the field.

The final decision is then taken by the upper school teachers’ meeting, also taking educational aspects into account. As a result between 20 and 24 pupils in each year start the training as a tailor or seamstress.

EK | What do the pupils think of the clothing they make themselves? Does it end up in a drawer or do they wear it?

BPM | They wear what they have made themselves with great pride. The pupils like to offer clothes which are intended for sale in the bazaar to their parents and siblings in advance.

EK | Is there a particular type of pupil who decides to take up tailoring?

BPM | No, not that I’ve noticed.

EK | Do the pupils subsequently enter jobs in the fashion industry?

BPM | Yes, every so often, although the educational objective of the Hibernia School here too is the development of the personality and not training for a specific jobs market.

This year, for example, we are taking leave of a pupil who is going into the theatre. Pupils from previous years have gone into fashion design in London and Cape Town. Our pupils also like to take their bearings in the retail trade and industry.

EK | Clothing is important for young people. What is their attitude to cheap clothing and things they have made themselves? Also, clothes made by themselves are more expensive.

BPM | The young people undoubtedly understand the connection between fair production and the threads and materials and have a strong sense of what it means to create working conditions fit for human beings. They face the dilemma that it often goes beyond their financial means at the time to buy responsibly.

Then there is the fact that clothing is subject to rapid changes in fashion. To find oneself in this context; not or only partly to follow fashion trends; to look critically at current fashion labels is then also an individual process of development.

EK | Young people identify strongly with their clothes. How do the pupils deal with brand pressure?

BPM | Of course the subject of brand pressure also crops up sometimes in our school. I prefer to speak about brand awareness: it is definitely important for many pupils to wear trendy fashion.

But we also regularly see pupils who live out their individuality with great assurance independently of fashion trends and express this particularly through their clothing. Such diversity allows me to see on a daily basis how the Hibernia pupils encounter one another with growing tolerance.