THE WORST SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY
Forgive me if my attitude to grammar schools is a little more appreciative than is fashionable nowadays. This is primarily because I am such a huge beneficiary of the system.
It strikes me that life is a selective process. Hopefully, the best candidate gets the job; the best employees the promotions etc. Competitive sport as youngsters prepares us for this. The best players make the team; the best teams win.
So selecting by ability (at 11 when I was a lad) becomes part of this. It owed nothing to privilege and background – the daughter of a miner sat alongside the son of a doctor in the 11-plus exam room, doing, essentially, an IQ test. I myself was the son of an electrician and a cleaner and without such a meritocratic selection I do not think that I would have gained anywhere near as “comprehensive” an education.
Competition continued at grammar school with streaming; the more able boys in the “A” stream, the less so in the “B” and “C” streams. And by and large it worked. Every year 20 or so boys went to university, myself included. No big thing these days but a small achievement for a family of a mining background.
There were failures, of course. Two of the brightest boys in my year dropped into the “C” stream, essentially because their attitude wasn’t right. I don’t know what became of them but I would not be surprised if they had forged successful careers, though hopefully not in crime.
The school enjoyed a reputation as the 2nd best in the county after the High School which recruited through scholarships and fee-payers. A few years after I left the school became a comprehensive, in time tumbling down the league tables until it ended up in “special measures”. At one point it enjoyed the status as the worst school in the country. In the end it was closed and its pupils transferred to a neighbouring school; “amalgamation” they called it.
It is a source of pride to me that I attended the worst school in the country.