Thursday, 20 April 2017

"My Place" at the Grammar School

I attended a village primary school in Essex. The headmaster's daughter was in my class and we were best friends. In the run up to the 11 plus test I remember her telling me that her dad had been giving her lots of tests to do at home and she was irritated because it took time away from her other interests. The rest of us only did one practice run and then sat the test. 

I was later told that I had achieved the highest mark and had won the place to go to grammar school. The headmaster called my parents in and explained to them that the school was a long way from where we lived and that they might not be able to manage the transport costs, and might therefore prefer to send me to the local secondary modern which was being converted into a comprehensive school that year. They agreed and I went to the local school. You can guess who got 'my place' at the grammar school.  

I did well at my comprehensive school, got 3 grade A levels, went to University and eventually obtained a doctorate. I never saw my 'best friend' from primary school again, but I know she is now a successful medical doctor. I'd like to meet her one day and discuss what happened; neither of us was really aware at the time of the significance of this sequence of events, I expect. I'm still struggling with what my story means both in my life and in terms of the education system in this country but now that grammars are being discussed again, I think it is important to revisit how the system might be used to disadvantage working class children in the future.