Bog standard will do nicely

27th April 2001 at 01:00
From where I sit I can see Carluke's two high schools, the old and the new. The old has been converted into a primary and special needs school. Its replacement is an eighties flat-roofer with recreation centre and swimming pool attached. I taught there the year the move from one building to another was completed, though I was never a pupil.

Yep, I was a child of the era of selective schools, well almost. When I was in primary 7, Carluke High was a four-year school. Twelve kids from the class were identified as potential Higher pupils and given the chance to attend Lanark Grammar or Coltness High.

Don't ask me how it was done. I recall very few formal assessments at primary school, though I do remember IQ tests. And get a load of this . . . nobody ever told you how you scored. No wonder the parents of a pair of identical twins kicked up a fuss when one girl was selected to go to a six-year school and the other wasn't.

I remember the day it was announced who would go where. Friendships broke down, sometimes just temporarily, as accusations of snobbishness and swottiness flew around the moment our teacher left the room.

I went to Lanark. It was a comprehensive and took everyone from the town and neighbouring villages - only Carlukians got the big lottery-style fnger picking them out.

Even so, I never saw anyone deemed to be academically challenged in any lesson beyond PE. We were put into classes according to our perceived abilities from the word go. They were named after trees, which was nice. I was in 1 Ash. You could tell 1 Ash was a brainy class because it had a short name. Poorer pupils were in classes with harder to spell names like Willow.

Aye, right.

Did this masonically opaque selection do me any harm? Of course not. The system was designed to benefit the likes of me. But 29 years down the line I'm glad it has gone. My daughter starts secondary school this August. Am I honestly saying I am happy that no form of selection exists? Wouldn't she be better in a more academic environment? What sort of a politically correct wet liberal am I?

I'm the sort of politically correct wet liberal who has a daughter who has many qualities but I'm not sure that the ability to do well in selection tests is necessarily one of them. We all mature at different rates and I am content that she is entering a much more accommodating system than the semi-selective, streamy one I thrived in. Bog standard ain't necessarily bad.

Gregor Steele and his friends used to accuse one another of being in class 1 Horse Chestnut.


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