Thursday, 2 February 2012

1. What was the last year at primary school like - in particular studying for the 11-plus exam? 

I don't remember "studying" for the 11-plus (I thought it was supposed to be a basic IQ test not a knowledge test. I remember sitting next to a broken window on a cold February morning trying to make sense of the questions and trying to decide which of several possible answers was the "right" one and then trying to get my "frozen" fingers to write neatly. Later I caught food poisoning (dysentry they called it) and being off school for 3 months and then not being allowed back for the last 6 weeks before summer holidays in case I caught something again. 

2. How did you hear that you had not passed the 11-plus? What did that feel like? How were you treated? 

I suppose my Mother got a letter - she was quite upset but it didn't really bother me. My Mother tried to coach me on these really weird IQ tests that had no "right" answer to them (to my way of thinking) - my Brother says she used to say "poor Mark, he's not very bright but he's good with his hands". My Father (who was a painter, decorator, general builder) took me "under his wing" and taught me basic carpentry. 

3. What were your first impressions of  your secondary school? 

Firstly it was wonderfully close to home, (just down the end of the road from where I lived). Secondly all the "big boys" seemed to be dressed as teddy boys (which I thought was really "cool" (except cool wasn't used in those days) and I wanted to be able to dress like them). Being born in 1946 I was in the 'bulge' year and there were over twice as many of us as in intake-years before or after. Therefore we spent many lessons walking to nearby church halls etc. because there just wasn't enough room in the school buildings. 

4. What stories do you tell about your time at the school? 

There was a boy who could have been thought of as a bit of a bully but was actually more of a fixer and just didn't tolerate fools. If there had been such a thing as an NUS rep he'd have been it. When we finally felt we'd had enough of the bullying antics of one particular teacher it was "Mr. Fixit" who organised us into open rebellion, one break-time. We were all called into the school hall and given a good telling off but the teacher was "persuaded" to resign. The same boy was also the "top man" in a game of "human pyramid" that started on the playing fields at lunch-break. This went on for several days until one assembly we were asked to stop for safety reasons (the head said how much he admired what we were doing but feared for our safety). 

5. What expectations do you think the school had of you? How was that made clear to you? 

We were all expected to end up working in the local factory and lessons were geared to making sure we able to write coherent letters of application, work out our wages to make sure we weren't being diddled. Fill out tax forms etc. One English teacher was particularly nice and I could relax in her class. Unfortunately that meant I didn't try very hard and regularly failed the end-of-term assessment. So I was demoted to Mr. Nasty's class where I tried my hardest to get-the-hell-out and got put back up again, and relaxed (and so the cycle went on). 

6. What qualifications did you leave with? 

After a second attempt I managed to scrape 5 whole GCEs 

7. Did you enjoy your time at secondary school? 

Actually I did and I think if I had passed the 11 plus I'd have been less happy at a Grammar School, though a Tech might have been OK. 

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