There’s a lot of discussion about British Grammar Schools at present. There’s a body of thought that they are divisive.
They were in my young days. But I thought those days were over.
Grammar Schools back then were the backbone of the English Class System (? Caste System ?). Parents paid good money in the shape of fees to fund the establishments. Therefore, only the prosperous Middle- and Upper-Middle Classes could afford that “superior” education.
In the late 1940s, Britain’s first Labour government began to change things. The 11-Plus exam was introduced and the results of that decided to which secondary school a youngster would go.
Secondary Modern schools were created, giving – it was hoped – a good education to those whose scholastic abilities were less than good.
I was ten when I took the 11-Plus. And, on one day, I showed myself bright enough to go to WolverhamptonGrammar School. My parents were very proud, of course, and my Mom’s expectations for my future were high.
Alas, when I donned The School’s uniform and went, in a state of misery, to my first day at The School, I knew that the next few years would be even darker than those I’d just about tolerated at ChristChurchInfant & JuniorSchool.
There were still paying-pupils at Wolverhampton Grammar, for it was in transit between being a private establishment and part of the new State system. The Headmaster was a real old Tory snob who looked down his nose at us working-class lads with local accents, and used his sarcasm to make us feel bad. Many of the Masters were of the same beliefs.
The older pupils – the paying ones – were similar.
The view of these people was that we should be judged by what our fathers did for a living, not by what we were or what we could achieve. Most of the 11-Plus lads’ fathers were in manual work. My own Dad was a drayman, driving a cart-horse for Butler’s brewery. I was well down the pecking order.
As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I was grateful for one Master, Mr. E. H. Dance (“Dickie”), who treated us all as human beings. I believe he was a Christian Socialist.
And, despite the class-distinction and bullying, I survived. I did not become a lawyer or a doctor or any kind of professional. But I made a living, married a strong and supportive girl, fathered a lovely and intelligent daughter – and have had much happiness in my life.
And that is what life must be about: freedom from all shackles and pigeon-holing – and we should fight, fight and fight again to relieve ourselves of the jackboot of the English Class System