What a pity Jim Barrett (TES, April 9) did not attend Henry Harbin Boys'
secondary modern in Poole as I did during the Sixties, as he may have taken an alternative view of secondary modern education.
Far from blighting my life, I consider it a privilege to have attended Harbin. A good selection of GCE O-levels were offered alongside CSE. I left with six good Os. Many of the schoolmasters were ex-military officers and I marvel at their commitment and standards and, as a teacher myself, I have attempted to model myself on them. Yes, discipline could, and needed to be, harsh, but the encouragement was superb and I remember vividly the propaganda - "better the top stream of a secondary modern than bottom in a grammar", but it worked! Ironically the ethos of the school was very much that of a grammar school and there was a culture of achievement. Although academically we could not hope to compete with Poole Boys' grammar, we could compete on the level playing field of sport.
I suggest the stigma that Jim refers to is more to do with the fact that he left school with no qualifications rather than, like me, failure of the 11-plus. His secondary school obviously failed him by not providing him with a good-quality education. However, I think his anger should be directed more at the school rather than the system. I believe children will aspire to their best in schools with high standards no matter whether secondary modern, comprehensive or grammar.
Had my own children had the ability and opportunity to attend a grammar school, I would have definitely said yes.
Gary Heritage 11 Denefield Skellingthorpe, Lincoln