When the “students” at Hailsham reach adulthood and leave the institution, they are moved to the Cottages, where they await their fate to be “completed.” Kathy and her friends learn after their move that the philosophy behind Hailsham’s relatively comfortable environment was replaced by a colder, perhaps more realistic attitude toward the donor-clones. When she, Ruth, and Tommy were at Hailsham, the children were largely shielded from knowledge of their origins and purpose. The reasoning was that they would be calmer if they were kept in the dark. Staying at Hailsham was considered a privilege, and some of the guardians felt strongly that the children should be protected and have some semblance of childhood.
Because the children had been at Hailsham for so long and could not leave the premises, they were completely ignorant of how the outside world functioned. As far as they knew, every school was like theirs and every child was the same. Although differences between them were generally tolerated and sometimes praised, on one level the children knew that they had no future other than donation, but on another level they loved to daydream about glamorous lifestyles. They are told that they are sterile, which meant that they could later enjoy sexual activity without repercussions (although it was discouraged on the Hailsham premises).
The children were especially encouraged to be creative, producing art works to be shown in the Gallery and judged by the mysterious visitor, Madame. Making art was beneficial primarily because the children earned tokens, which they could trade for clothing or treasured personal items, such as Kathy’s recording. Although having a work chosen by Madame did not earn tokens, her selection was a greater honor, and most children relished the prestige. Only later do they learn that these works were being shown to Hailsham’s governing patrons as evidence that the duplicate people were as fully human as the “originals” from which they had been cloned.
While the children got most of the information from the guardians, there was also an active rumor mill; most of the orally transmitted lore from the other children, however, turned out to be false. In particular, the idea that two donors could get a “deferral,” allowing them an intimate, personal relationship which would shield them from donation was very popular among the students; when Kathy and Tommy fell in love, they were counting on this possibility and actively pursued finding out how to obtain one. When they finally meet with Madame and Miss Emily, they learn that deferrals were just a rumor and also the extent of prejudice against clones even among the Hailsham staff.