In Brief

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Head for Success: what secondary schools did achieve and still can By Herbert Harris-Taylor The Book Guild Limited pound;12.50 By 1947, at the age of 30, Herbert Harris-Taylor was head of a newly designated secondary modern school in industrial West Yorkshire. Two further headships followed: a big secondary modern in Maidstone, Kent, and a Yorkshire grammar. Then comprehensive reorganisation threatened, and he left the world of education. On the evidence of this memoir, that was education's loss. He was clearly a good head: confident, charismatic, proud of his schools and his pupils.

His central argument is that selection worked. "Failing the 11 plus," he says, was "a stupid phrase"; grammar and secondary moderns alike delivered "parity of esteem".

It's not, of course, that simple. There is lots of evidence in these pages of the low expectations and negative attitudes that Harris-Taylor battled with and conquered. But it's still a remarkable evocation of a time when society was optimistic and well ordered and senior prefects could call the dining room to silence and be obeyed.

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