Dark side of our grammar schools

12th June 2009 at 01:00

Chris Woodhead yearns for the halcyon days of the grammar school (Review, June 5). I do not. I attended one for boys in Middlesex from 1954 to 1962, the first of my family to enjoy this privilege or even to stay on at school beyond 14.

My parents were delighted that I passed the 11-plus, but their hopes soon dwindled. At the end of my first year, even though I was in the top class, my report said that, considering my IQ, my efforts were disappointing. I was trying very hard.

That same year, I and others were sexually abused by older boys at a school house party. I had to bare my buttocks to be caned by a teacher. I never thought to report either incident, assuming it part of the culture.

Pastoral or academic guidance were non-existent. Form tutors were remote figures.

At 16, although still in the top class, I passed only four O-levels. There were no extra support classes, no discussion of how to revise effectively. But I did stay on in the sixth form. There were no retake classes. At the end of the sixth form, I did pass A-level English, history and French and was even given a prize at speech day, although when I opened my book of English poetry they had got my name wrong.

I trained as a teacher, but only because of the advent of comprehensive schools. I would never have wanted to return to such a narrow, dispiriting, unsupportive, selective system as the grammar schools.

Michael Weller, Retired school improvement adviser, Selmeston, East Sussex.

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