Thursday, 12 September 2013
Hewers of wood, drawers of water
"I was at a sec mod in the late 50s and 60s. Passing the 11 plus made no difference because it was the only school within reasonable travelling distance.
The teachers didn't really teach, but just sat at the front expecting silence, which they generally got. Some kids played cards or a variety of paper and pencil games. Some of us read, either the books in the classroom or those we brought in with us.
There were a few exceptions to the no teaching rule. The craft teachers - metalwork and woodwork - kept the boys busy and the girls learned needlework and cooking. Housecraft, I think it was called. The games teacher was an ex Welsh rugby cap, so was keen to promote talent.
There was no pussyfooting when it came to what teachers thought of us. To some we were "the scum of the earth," to the more liberal we were destined to be, "hewers of wood and drawers of water."
The discipline was fairly harsh with the cane being used for even minor infringements. I was caned maybe three times. The most memorable was for walking the wrong direction around the grounds, which was a serious offence. As well as the cane, my place in the school concert was removed. I went to the teacher responsible and pleaded to be allowed to perform my piece but was told, "who do you think would want to listen to someone like you." I have not played the piano since. I still feel guilty that my mum scraped together five shillings a week for lessons and paid for my up to grade eight and five certificates. Unfortunately, I simply accepted my place.
The school made some minor provision for a few children who took 'O' levels. On the other side of the playing fields were mobiles attended by "the specials," children with pushy parents.
Since I could read extremely well and had good enough maths from 'extra curricuar' activities, I was not bothered by schooling. It provided access to the library and a midday meal.
Like most of my peers I left school at 14. We were needed in the factories and at the docks. That suited the teachers who could provide for 'the specials'. The only post 14s I recall was a lad with a speech defect, a pregnant girl and a few reprobates who were destined to find it hard to get a job.
During my mid to late twenties I got the notion that education may not be as difficult as those in charge made out so got some 'O's and 'A's, the best degree in my year and have picked up other higher gongs and a PGCE along the way. My reading I owe to my grandmother. I don't feel I owe school anything. my higher maths skills I owe to Lancelot Hogben.
I suppose our masters and betters have as much contempt for us lower orders as they always did and the downgrading of education and the demands for the return of Grammars reflects this."