An 11-plus stigma erased by grit and determination

1st March 1996 at 00:00
I was delighted to read "One laugh and you're in" (Talkback, TES, February 9).

It gave me great comfort to know that someone who was in charge of part of the dreaded 11-plus examination horror felt sad about the whole affair. I have never read anything so comforting regarding those dreadful days.

I was one of those children "labelled an 11-plus failure". I have had to live with that all my life, but I am proud to say that I was one with grit and determination. I was determined to succeed but did not know how to set about it.

Examinations were not even discussed at school - no one had an opportunity to take one exam - let alone fail one. It was so demoralising.

I remember how jealous I was that children who attended grammar schools had homework and I never did; how I wished that everyone in our school would wear uniform, but their parents could not afford it. I desperately wanted to be proud of my school, but alas I left at the age of 14 (my birthday is September 4), and started work on September 6 in an office. Immediately I made enquiries about attending college, but I was too young. I had to wait until I was 16. Then, I started to attend three evenings each week for shorthand, typing and English. Naturally this was after a full working day.

Eventually I plucked up enough courage to ask the solicitor for whom I worked if I could attend a part-time day class in addition to the evenings. He condescended to give me one hour on a Tuesday afternoon when I had to run all the way to college on the other side of Derby and run even faster all the way back in order to prepare the mail.

It makes me wonder now, if what happened or rather did not happen at school, made me work so hard at college. I did homework every evening and passed my examinations.

My secretarial career went from strength to strength. Eventually I was offered a teaching job purely on the basis of my skills. I was an assistant lecturer at a college in Derby and was seconded to take my Certificate in Education.

I have remained with the same authority for 25 years now. I am curriculum leader for information technology and lead teams of lecturers in administration.

I often say to students when they find a topic or skill development difficult, "if I can do it, so can you" - they don't know how true that statement is.

I really love teaching youngsters who have now finished school with D, E and F grades and giving them the enthusiasm to believe in themselves. I teach by encouragement and belief in their ability and usually I succeed. I am sure that it is as a result of that awful system that I work in this way.

MAHALA TITTERTON 101 The Plain Brailsford Ashbourne Derbyshire

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