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Back in Time for schools - 11+

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Marshall, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    Just this from the 1950's - very interesting, especially about Joan Bakewell's social mobility.

    I started grammar school in 1971. I didn't even know I was taking the test.

    My dad was a face worker in the pits and my grandparents worked in a textile mill. Apparently my grandad wore clogs.

    I remember that when I knew I was going to grammar my mum said 'you'll not want to know us now'. She didn't stop me however. Apparently my dad passed the 11+ but that was in the time when you had to pay and his family couldn't afford to send him.

    I hid my past for years but I am so proud of it now. I suppose that's what getting older is all about!

    We still have grammar schools in my area and the children are very often coached from Y3 upwards. This is despite us having several outstanding secondary schools available to them.

    How times change!
    Dragonlady30 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  2. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    Forgot to say that Hubs also passed the 11+ (he is older than me) and his brother didn't and he went to the local 'tech college'.

    The two brothers have never really got on because of this and his brother is constantly (even now) trying to 'win one over' on Hubs.
  3. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    It was an interesting programme.

    Both my parents came from working class backgrounds and got into Grammar schools in the 1940s, although my Mum dropped out of the sixth form when her Mum died suddenly. Insofar as my parents went on to join the teaching profession and provide a comfortable middle class upbringing for my sister and I, it's fair to say we benefited from their social mobility. They were the first in our family to get grammar school educations - I was the first to get a degree, although my sister and I both went to comprehensives.

    Where the grammar school thing fell down for me was during the first six years of my teaching career, teaching in a boys' secondary modern in a Greater London LEA that had retained selection. As soon as the 11+ results came out, parents of those who'd failed would stampede their offsping into comps in neighbouring LEAs, leaving us with the rest. I didn't like it one bit, and I was glad to escape to a mixed comprehensive. I was appalled at the effects of labelling large numbers of children as failures at the age of 11 - all it did was breed more failure. To my mind the social cost of improving a minority's social mobility in the early 1980s was too high, but in the context of the 1940s/50s it undoubtedly conferred advantages on some that they might otherwise have missed.
    Lara mfl 05 and Marshall like this.
  4. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    I did my 11+ in 1966 and we weren't told what it was either although most of us guessed … 'We're going into the Hall to do some puzzles and a quiz'.

    There was a lot of resentment from the pupils at the Secondary Modern who spat at us and snatched our hideous hats when we walked home. This stopped suddenly when their school was made comprehensive although my school stayed a Grammar (it was a Voluntary Aided Church school not in LA control) until 8 years after I'd left. My sister failed hers and has always seemed to blame me for that disadvantage although neither the system or her failing the test was down to me.

    When my Dad was 11 (1936) he was sent for an interview at the Grammar school. The Headmaster told him to pick up the green book and read from it, he picked the wrong book and was deemed unsuitable for a Grammar School so went to the Technical school and left at 14. He didn't realise he was colour blind until he was called up and tested in the RAF. He was unable to become a pilot but trained as a wireless operator which probably saved his life and set him up for his future career.
  5. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    Inky P - how times have changed!

    It just shows that it's not all about going to grammar school. I wish more parents in my area recognised this. For them it's about the kudos of saying 'my XXX goes to the grammar school'. Even though not all are capable of doing so.

    I have seen a few parents in the last 5 years decide not to send their child to the grammar even though they passed (and very often with fabulous scores) because there seems to be a culture of non-tolerance and bullying. My opinion only.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  6. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    My history lessons were mainly like the English lesson shown where the teacher wrote on the blackboard and you copied it. The teacher (who we thought was about 90 but must have been no older than I am now) had a set of battered exercise books which he copied from on to the board then we copied that. There was a bit of discussion too, of course. When we did WW2 he used to get more involved and talked about his own experiences, meeting Monty and getting a cigarette off him etc. To my shame, we thought he was a boring old man droning on about the war but really he was a living, breathing historical resource.
    Alice K, Lara mfl 05 and Marshall like this.
  7. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

    It was a little tricky getting into my grammar school. It was a direct grant school so first off, 11+ in the school hall. If you got through that it was the entrance exam, a huge affair ( as I recall) with what seemed like hundreds of pupils all feverishly scribbling away. If you managed to get through that, there was the scholarship exam to do-the first time we actually went anywhere near the school we wanted to go to! The final hurdle was the interview with the Head- a tough old battle-axe who scared the living daylights out of me!

    By the time you had struggled through that lot, you certainly knew what was going on!

    My Dad passed the 11+ but couldn't go to grammar as his mother refused to pay for the uniform, it was only then that he discovered he was a year younger than he thought, his mother had lied to get him into infants school early and, rather than going on to secondary, he was sent back to the juniors for another year!
  8. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I didn't think that the English lesson was realistic. Yes, we used to have copy down grammar rules in the 1950s and 1960s classroom but that was a short part of the lesson (the Starter exercise). We would then get shown correct usage of those rules, followed by exercises where we corrected a piece of prose or selected the correct word to complete a sentence.
    Those modern pupils couldn't even copy out all the text on the board in the lesson time!
    oldsomeman and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  9. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    mr jubilee suggested that the teacher made the English lesson all about copying from the board, and nothing else, because she didn't know the grammar rules herself and so could not explain them to the pupils!
  10. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    A little earlier than my experience as I a passed the 11+ in 1959 and it really was a big deal at my tiny rural primary. We did practise for the exam, but I don't remember it being stressful. Certainly no coaching.
    Copying off the board (and having board rubbers chucked in your general direction) did happen, but not all the time. My English teachers understood grammar and why it's important. They imbued me with a love of the English language.
    jubilee and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  11. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Established commenter

    If there were sufficient grammar school places for all who want one and who are of the required ability then no one would be denied a place by pupils that have received coaching that not all can afford.
  12. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    I knew some who didn't pass the 11+ whose parents either moved across town to get into the better Secondary Modern or sent them to private school. There was a convent school that seemed to specialise in 11+ failures. My parents couldn't afford to do either for my sister and my Dad would have been ideologically opposed to the private school anyway.
  13. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I very much wanted my children in grammar schools. My reasons were

    1. The grammar schools are stricter and have better discipline.
    2. My children would be largely sitting next to children who's parents valued education, and backed up the school
    3. They are largely free from the fancy schmnancy edutainment type lesson, and more chalk and talk, and with more content

    I currently teach at a comprehensive that fulfils all those catogories, and does not have a selective intake. If such a comprehensive had been an option when I was choosing my children's secondary schools, it would have been my first choice. But there wasn't, and the only way I could get that environment for my children was through the 11+
  14. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    The grammar school had a "learning objective strike" once, if any teacher put learning objectives up, every child in the class put their pens down and refused to write.

    Generally, the school did avoid such sillyness that the rest of us waste time on, but on this occasion they did go a bit faffy and tried to bring learning objectives in. It lasted less than a week, cos the kids ( and the parents) were having none of it. The occasional supply teacher was still falling foul of the strike years later.
    towncryer likes this.
  15. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    I remember sitting my11+. We were just marched into the school hall, sat at the dinner tables and told to attempt the questons on the paper. I failed.
    Mind you the fact I was seen as a naughty child, seemingly always having to be dealt with, and spending a lot of my life in the corridor, away from the main lessons, might not have helped. I hated my teacher and found most lesson boring and in some cases too easy.
    A lot of my 'friends' went off to grammar or technical school and I went to a local Secondary Modern. It hurt when children who had been my friends for years suddenly stopped being my friends because they went to grammar or tech schools.
    For me, it was the 2nd year of Secondary when I finally 'come to' being taught by a Male teacher of great stature. Mr Turner was his name. That man singly handly turned me from a child with no hope and little interest in school into someone who learnt respect for myself and the fact I could be trusted. Luckily I then had a series of other excellent male teachers in the years following.
    I started out placed 31/32 children in class at the start of that year .to 8/32 by year 4 of Secondary. I had advanced so much they wanted me to go to college..but I had refused to sit the 13+ because I feared failure.
    However, life interfered and the need to work overcame a desire to learn and I left school aged just under 15. However, in those days one could easily go to night schools which I did when I could afford them.
    It was not until I was in my 20's did I realise my potential and then sat my O and A levels after 2 years of night school study. Items I might have undertaken had I not failed my 11+
    Watching the series on catch up it brought many a laugh as I remember school meals very well. and a few of the other events such as sports and writing off the board. They were lucky, we still had a dip in pens unless you could afford to buy your own fountain pen. I never could as there was not a lot of cash about in my household. Besides dip in pens where wonderful if the nib split..or you needed a dart for your enemies. lol
    towncryer and InkyP like this.
  16. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    The comp that I went to in 1973 from age 14-18 had been a grammar school until a couple of years before I got there. Looking back from a teacher's perspective, it's clear that there were two distinct camps among the staff. The new, mainly young, recent imports for the comprehensivisation, and the mainly older staff who couldn't quite accept that the grammar school was no more. Some of the younger teachers looked like refugees from Woodstock, whilst some of the older ones still walked around in academic gowns and insisted on their pupils writing in fountain pen. I can remember sitting in the oak-panelled library with a sullen bunch of my peers being berated by the Head of House for not volunteering to uphold "the honour of the house" on Sports Day by running, jumping, and throwing stuff. The school did Rugby and had an orchestra, both alien concepts for me before the age of 14. One of the deputies was built like a boxer and nicknamed 'Basher' - I think he was brought in for RoSLA, to keep order among the oiks who'd had their sentences extended. I don't remember any of the older staff with any great fondness - you sort of respected them, but their teaching methods were dull. The younger staff had a bit more about them. By the time I left the sixth form, Jack the Head jacked it in and a new guy was brought in from outside. The school was rebranded with a name change shortly afterwards. It was very much the last gasp of a largely defunct system.
    Marshall likes this.

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