'All our kids know where London is'

10th September 2004 at 01:00
"I'm not sure people know secondary moderns still exist," said Stephanie Bedford, head of Angley, a sports college and secondary modern in Cranbrook, Kent.

This summer Ms Bedford watched every episode of That'll Teach 'Em, the reality show set in a 1960s secondary modern.

She said: "Sometimes the Channel 4 announcers said, 'Obviously secondary moderns don't exist any more,' but there are several counties which still have selection, including Kent."

The show gave pupils predicted to get Cs and Ds at GCSE a four-week taste of life at a 1960s secondary modern.

Boys had lessons in car maintenance, while the girls were taught the importance of keeping a clean home for their future husbands - prompting sulky objections.

TV critics were stunned when some pupils failed to identify Scotland and London on a map of the British Isles. However, the programme was popular and described as "hugely entertaining" and "addictive".

Ms Bedford said: "I enjoyed it as entertainment. But secondary moderns are nothing like that now. In those days there was no national curriculum.

"Now all the boys and girls do lessons in food technology, textiles and resistant materials (metal- work), up to the age of 14.

"In key stage 4, when they can choose, slightly more boys than girls do food technology and although more boys do resistant materials, some girls choose it. So that side of schooling has been completely transformed since the 1960s.

"There may be more people taking technology subjects here than at a grammar school, but everybody should be offering them. It is an oversimplification to say this is a school for kids who are good with their hands."

She said 49 per cent of pupils at Angley gained at least five good GCSEs this year and, nine years after the school's sixth form opened, it has just sent its first pupil to Cambridge. Emily Caddick will be reading philosophy at Newnham college, after getting three grade As at A-level.

Ms Bedford said: "There still is some stigma, otherwise why are parents trying to move heaven and earth to get their children into grammar schools?

"But, as I told my pupils in assembly, Kelly Holmes went to a secondary modern exactly like this one and now has two Olympic golds. If you want to do it, you can do it.

"And all of our children know where London is."

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