Wednesday 8 March 2017

Reliving Schools Past

Being of the generation educated in the post War old Tripartite System the row over money being allocated to bodies that wish to create new ones again by creating Grammar Schools makes me wonder whether our leaders know what they are talking about.

The old grammar schools were not a set of similar places offering a particular education but of different sizes, catchment areas, histories and structure in terms of the subjects offered. This could be an article of thousands of words but you do not have the time for that. They were far from being all the same.

Because I was on the rugger and athletic teams this meant I visited quite a few other schools of various kinds across the Midlands. Not only grammar schools, but public schools, major and minor. I once played at Rugby School against a team terrified at being at risk of disgrace before their whole school if they lost to the likes of us.

My lot found the public schools a bit sad. When we returned we were looking forward to social evenings, perhaps the films, perhaps a jazz club or perhaps an evening in a pub that did not ask questions about age. They would be shackled to their desks or at best allowed to listen to the Home Service.

One key reason for the demise of the old grammar schools, now forgotten, was in that post War period local authorities were dealing with substantial changes in the numbers of school populations as well as major building work being needed. This occurred at the same time that the campaign for comprehensive schools gained political backing.

In the town halls and county halls already having to reshape their local schools the great majority, faced with hard decisions, ended the provision of grammar schools. In some places it was easier, in that where there were small grammar schools, with small sixth forms, a lesser choice of subject and poor facilities it seemed inevitable.

You cannot bring back that past in that you cannot restore the society, the values, the ideas, the hopes, the economy or any of it in which those grammar schools operated and educated. You might create new schools with a certain job to do, you might call them grammar schools, but they will be what they will be and that is something else.

Other things have changed that bear on present decisions. The effect of imprisoning most of the teenage population in schools, colleges and universities into their early twenties means that there is relatively little selection today compared to the past. The university sector is now a service industry dedicated to expansion and financial profit, of sorts.

Again forty to sixty years ago many left grammar school at sixteen equipped with the Schools Certificate or later GCE's to go into various forms of training, apprenticeship and work experience which would lead them on to higher status and often management and at the highest levels.

An effect has been to remove around ten per cent of workers or more from the home labour market. When, wandering about the much longer past and looking at what people did and when the capabilities and work done by teenagers then was astonishing. They do not seem to be any lesser people than those of today. In fact they seem to have achieved a great deal more.

The problems schools face today are manifold and testing. This could be another long essay but the 21st Century teenager is on a different planet to the 1960's one. Political fudge and bodge for media effect and to keep the paying members of the party happy, often an aged bunch with fond memories of the past is taking us nowhere.

I am being re-educated now at the University of Google Scholar.


  1. To bring back my grammar school we would have to resurrect those Edwardian gentlemen who made it what it was. Fortunately impossible because I wouldn't want to see all of them resurrected. anyway.

  2. I once played at Rugby School against a team terrified at being at risk of disgrace before their whole school if they lost to the likes of us.

    We had that too when we played Pocklington and Durham School, never got as far as Rugby.