Some failed 11-plus - and thrived

9th August 1996 at 01:00
How good it was to read Gillian Harrison's piece on the virtues of "old-fashioned" secondary modern education, especially after so much has been written to decry it (TES, July 19).

I too am a product of the "sec mod" system. I failed my 11-plus in 1965 but in no way did I feel disadvantaged or stigmatised by having to attend my secondary school that September.

As Gillian Harrison said, the advantage of this sort of system far outweighed the so-called disadvantages. My school was small (about 450 pupils, including sixth form), the teachers caring and not unduly overstressed, and personal relationships were built on the foundation of warmth and intimacy of the purest kind.

I left school at 18 in 1972 with eight O-levels and one A-level, plus a couple of CSEs and RSAs to my credit. Although I possessed an academic bent, I was also given the opportunity to express the expressive-creative side of my character. I subsequently went into teacher training for three years, and obtained my Certificate in Education in 1975.

In the years since then I have obtained a BEd Honours degree and discovered that I possess an IQ of 152 (although common sense is more important to me). I have had two careers - one in teaching and another as an LEA school support officer. I have also learned another language (and gained another O-level in 1983) and have recently undertaken training in counselling skills and theories. Last September I embarked on further training in theology in order to become an accredited lay minister in the Anglican church.

I am convinced that the nature of the secondary modern school I attended, while I agree that not all such schools were on a par with mine, gave me the best start I could possibly have wished for. The emphasis was on the education of the whole person. There was just the right amount of emphasis on academic success and most pupils left with some examination passes under their belts. More importantly there was space and time to concentrate on the physical and spiritual sides to education.

Classes were not that much smaller than today's but there was room on the timetable for an all-round education. Granted there were not as many children in the system in those days, so schools could be smaller and provide good learning environments. I am well aware of the reported advantages of today's comprehensives and the national curriculum, which I am in favour of in principle.

I do, however, feel we have lost that certain something which made many secondary moderns tick and helped them to produce mostly literate and numerate pupils who also possessed a sense of self-worth and intrinsic value - today's 40-something citizens who have generally done well for themselves in their chosen fields, myself included, although I am between careers and seeking a new direction. I'm glad I failed the 11-plus.

Micheline Bates 109C Gladstone Road Watford Hertfordshire

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