Salvation came when I left my secondary modern

9th August 1996 at 01:00
Like Gillian Harrison (TES, July 19) I too have fond memories of the 1950s but, unlike her, I actually attended a secondary modern school. This is what it was like.

There were about 300 pupils - boys and girls. The girls had their playground and the boys had theirs, each a strip of Tarmac separated by a brick wall. The lavatories were situated outside the buildings. There were no playing fields but there was a park behind the school which meant the boys could play football. There were no goalposts, no changing rooms, no showers.

There was no hall for assembly, we were taken by prefects to the Methodist chapel hall over the road which doubled as a gymnasium. The floorboards were rotten in places marked out by skipping ropes. This made many gymnastic exercises impossible to accomplish.

Biology was taught in a room with a sink in one corner, by an elderly lady who inspected our hands before we were allowed into her lessons. If they were dirty we had to wash them in the sink; the only purpose to which I ever saw it put. Some elementary physical science was taught in a room which had a single gas tap. Singing lessons were given in a room with a piano.

The day was divided into seven periods of 35 minutes. This meant that much time could be "lost" at the start and end of lessons giving out books, putting chairs and desks straight, filling up inkwells, etc. My overall impression was that it was a quiet, orderly school, where nothing of any real importance was going to be learned in the four years after which most of us would be expected to find factory work. For me salvation came at the age of 13 when I obtained a place at a nearby technical school.

The educational experiences of my two daughters in a local comprehensive school have been much better than my own.

John Collins 41 Woodcote Road Wolverhampton West Midlands

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