Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Eleven Plus

The first line that we had to write at Teachers Training College was "The British education system is a haphazard sequence of events". One of these events was the 11 plus. In theory it could sound sensible, testing children and dividing them into 3 groups, Academic, Technical or Practical.
It ended up being a question of Pass or Fail.
Well I passed it, it was based mainly on English language, Maths and General Knowledge. I loved all those subjects at Primary school. I was the only one that passed it in my class.
Grandma lovingly prepared my uniform with all the name labels and Grandpa bought me satchel.
The satchel was made of real leather and even now one whiff of that smell and I am back in a gymslip.
There by started a period of gloom for me.
The High school was enormous. 6 classes of 30 girls in each year, divided according to our birthdays.
There were the Wycombe girls, the Marlow girls and me.
There were lots of rules, you couldn't go here and you couldn't go there. You had to wear the horrible hat at all times. No eating in the street, no talking, no laughing. Everyone seemed very serious, very clever and very smart.
The personality that I had developed playing pinch-bum-he and making little ones laugh, was a bit out of place. Anyone with a name like "Hardick", the teacher's bad breath, serious cello playing- all were guaranteed to have me rolling on the floor with helpless laughter (on my own). I became quiet, miserable and withdrawn.
The bright spot of the day was going Home, I looked forward to going Home to Grandma all day long. Even now when the hands of the clock point to 3.20 pm or 4 my heart gives a little lift.
Going home to Grandma was always the most wonderful thing to do in the whole world. We would sit by the fire eating jam tarts and watching children's television in the Winter, sit drinking tea in the garden in the Summer.
She did nt really understand why I was so unhappy. She had had to leave school at 14, I had passed the 11 plus so I must be alright, I was lucky to go to such a good school.

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