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Grammar schools and comprehensives in Birmingham in the 50s and 60s.

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Chris,

It sounds as you were like me. I went to Moseley in 1947 and should have taken my O Levels in 1952, but I wasm't 16 until the following January so we had to do another year scrambled together from all four streams of those younger kids. The problem then was that we then couldn't take Physics and either Chemistry or Biology, but had to take General Science 1 & General Science 2, and a third of each paper comprised a subject which we had dropped at the end of the first year. If you wanted to go into medicine, you needed both chemistry and biology as well as physics and were therefore screwed.

Those of us who are still in touch still moan about that and say someone should have been shot for that stupid decision. That was what made me finally give up on school in that last year - a disastrous policy. Penalised because of the date we were born.

Maurice :cool:
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Chris,

It sounds as you were like me. I went to Moseley in 1947 and should have taken my O Levels in 1952, but I wasm't 16 until the following January so we had to do another year scrambled together from all four streams of those younger kids. The problem then was that we then couldn't take Physics and either Chemistry or Biology, but had to take General Science 1 & General Science 2, and a third of each paper comprised a subject which we had dropped at the end of the first year. If you wanted to go into medicine, you needed both chemistry and biology as well as physics and were therefore screwed.

Those of us who are still in touch still moan about that and say someone should have been shot for that stupid decision. That was what made me finally give up on school in that last year - a disastrous policy. Penalised because of the date we were born.

Maurice :cool:
Was that in the the times before capital punishment was abolished?
 

farmerdave

master brummie
Hi daithelife. You did very well at Grammar School. May I ask if you were an only-child? There have been some suggestions on this thread that only-children were more likely to be financed by their parents (paying for uniforms and sports kit etc) to get into Grammar School and perhaps, also. they were more focussed on achieving good exam results. A slight diversion, but of the last 15 Prime Ministers there has been just one who was an only child, Theresa May. I'm an only child myself and found passing exams relatively easy but working in a team, as presumably necessary for PMs. harder.
 

daithelife

proper brummie kid
Hi Farmer Dave, no I was not an only child> I had a brother some fifteen months younger but we were just about as different as it is possible to be. Educationally he saw the other extreme of education in those days being condemned (I am sure that is the correct verb to use) to life in the dreaded 'Secondary Modern', which meant he could not take any O levels and was expected to become yet more factory floor fodder. He was on fact enormously gifted with his hands becoming a silversmith and then as fashion changed he requalified as a true carpenter and worked making beautiful bespoke furniture for the very wealthy.
I really wonder how much talent we wasted back in those days. I admit freely that I was lucky that I matched the model the Government of the time seemed to desire whereas we ignored our skilled artisans of the future and condemned so many of them to a life of frustration as manafacturing inevitably went overseas for its cheap labour.
 

cba

master brummie
Hi Farmer Dave, no I was not an only child> I had a brother some fifteen months younger but we were just about as different as it is possible to be. Educationally he saw the other extreme of education in those days being condemned (I am sure that is the correct verb to use) to life in the dreaded 'Secondary Modern', which meant he could not take any O levels and was expected to become yet more factory floor fodder. He was on fact enormously gifted with his hands becoming a silversmith and then as fashion changed he requalified as a true carpenter and worked making beautiful bespoke furniture for the very wealthy.
I really wonder how much talent we wasted back in those days. I admit freely that I was lucky that I matched the model the Government of the time seemed to desire whereas we ignored our skilled artisans of the future and condemned so many of them to a life of frustration as manafacturing inevitably went overseas for its cheap labour.
The inequalities caused by he tripartite system was the driving force behind the comprehensive school system. I have experienced the secondary modern and the grammar schools as a pupil and the comprehensive school system as a teacher for nearly 40 years I have no doubt that the comprehensive schools give wider opportunities to a greater proportion of children.
 

daithelife

proper brummie kid
I am sorry Pedrocut, I realise reading back my post it seems very dismissive which was the exact opposite of my intentions. I really meant it was such a shame that so many were denied opportunities merely because they "failed" a test which we now know was biased toward the comfortable middle class. Over the years I have met and come to know many skilled artisans who had to overcome far to often, prejudice because of their background and education. My intention was to say how the powers to be tried to limit opportunity forthe many.
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Of course, a lot depended upon the pupil, irrespective of what type of school they were in. My slightly younger brother went to a secondary modern, which became a comprehensive, and was quite happy there, stayed out of trouble, and became an electrician via the apprenticeship schome. He worked abroad for of a couple of years, picked up many metalworking skills, and eventually was running a small unit which involved manatgements skills as well.

There are troublemakers in every type of school, who not only learn very little themselves, but unfortunately disrupt the education of the rest in the class. They're also not always the dimmest of pupils as I can think of two at Moseley, who were not only academically bright enough to pass the 11+, but were also vindictive enough to cause a lot of trouble. One just bullied many of his fellow pupils, but managed to stay the course - just - and is now in South Africa, whilst the other seemed to be picking physical fights with teachers. I was present on one occasion whem the teacher, ex-military, was cheered on by the pupils as the pupil got a well-deserved walloping. As a result the pupil got thrown out of the school, but now in these undisciplined days, I fear the teacher would have been dismissed and that would have been quite unjustified.

Maurice :cool:
 

A Sparks

master brummie
I'm not sure I agree that the 11+ was biased towards the comfortable middle classes.
I passed the exam and went to Grammar school but as far as I recall my classmates and I were all from ordinary working class families.

Edit, I'm not saying that it's right that children should be categorised at the age of 11.
 

Morturn

Super Moderator
Staff member
My recollection of secondary modern schools was that we were factory fodder.

I think it was unfortunate and no fault of any child that the country chose to implement a divisive educational system that denied opportunity, left potential unfulfilled and talent unused.
 

Richard Dye

master brummie
Hi Farmer Dave, no I was not an only child> I had a brother some fifteen months younger but we were just about as different as it is possible to be. Educationally he saw the other extreme of education in those days being condemned (I am sure that is the correct verb to use) to life in the dreaded 'Secondary Modern', which meant he could not take any O levels and was expected to become yet more factory floor fodder. He was on fact enormously gifted with his hands becoming a silversmith and then as fashion changed he requalified as a true carpenter and worked making beautiful bespoke furniture for the very wealthy.
I really wonder how much talent we wasted back in those days. I admit freely that I was lucky that I matched the model the Government of the time seemed to desire whereas we ignored our skilled artisans of the future and condemned so many of them to a life of frustration as manafacturing inevitably went overseas for its cheap labour.
Daithelife, the part about Not taking o levels is correct. I am not an only child with and older sister. I used day release and nights to get past that. My parents had no money and did not much care! Maurice's frustration is very understandable.
When I came to the US my first job was as a lab tech for an aviation company, there I meet two friends who were both degreed aeronautical engineers, they urged my to go to school at night. I finished my third technical degree married with two young children. And yes I did NOT pass the 11 plus and the system was bad but it comes down to choices. In hindsight the system (it seems to me) was designed to block.
My apologies for the rant, this was a very difficult time for me!
 

devonjim

master brummie
Interesting to read of all the theories of the effects of education systems. I suppose I was an only child for my formative years, I was pre-war, well almost and siblings were post-war. I went to grammar school they went to secondary modern. When I went to grammar school we lived on a council estate, mom and dad had split up, so mom was a "single-mom" goodness knows how she was able to afford all the uniform etc. By 1957, in sixth form I was the only class member who lived on a council estate. I left school and became an apprentice. My brothers had a uniform at their SM and my youngest brother did "O" levels, or would it have been GCSE by 1965, and became a GPO/BT apprentice. None of us went to university but none finished up "factory fodder". There is a claim that grammar school gave social mobility, whatever that is, but my siblings and I all finished up in not dissimilar occupations and demography. Perhaps grammar schools did cream off the better teachers to the detriment of the SM schools.
 

Eric Gibson

master brummie
My school was a secondary modern, the government in 1949 decided that there should be a 'leaving exam' the teachers were taken by surprise and a quick scheme was arranged where all the leavers sat in the assembly hall and did the exam set.
Because of a previous government change that caught them by surprise, leaving age upped from 14 to 15 there was little or no planning for what the pupils were to do in the extra year so they just bumbled on through with whatever they could find.
I spent that last year in the science class assisting the science master setting up experiments and exhibits, even did the stocktake of the storeroom.
We never thought of ourselves as factory fodder we had freedom of choice when we left, the science master said he would get me a job at Birmingham University as a lab technician but I'd made my mind up that I wanted to be motor mechanic so went straight into the garage trade.
After I left school it was decided by someone that it would be a good idea to change the names of all the schools to something more posh (as my mother said) Peckham Road became Kings Rise, Dulwich Road and Cranbourne road also had new names beginning with Kings , can't remember the new names for those.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Eric mentions the year of 1949. Here is part of an article from the Birmingham Gazette of February 1948, concerning education in Birmingham's Primary and Secondary schools.(mentions raising of school leaving age).

It goes on to suggest answers.
C9883653-9E57-4B02-B001-4F0DF99DC2DA.jpeg
 

Tinpot

master brummie
Eric mentions the year of 1949. Here is part of an article from the Birmingham Gazette of February 1948, concerning education in Birmingham's Primary and Secondary schools.(mentions raising of school leaving age).

It goes on to suggest answers.
View attachment 157339
Even by 1958 I was still in a class of 48 when we took our 11+. This was the post war era when there had been a baby boom. There was a housing problem too. Education at that time was simply a 'sifting' process to fuel the economy. Exam pass marks shifted about in order that the needed number of people got through to the next tier. Those of us from poorer backgrounds simply negotiated our own way through. What worked to our benefit was post school education and grants. The challenge now is to create a system that can meet individual potential. A new model of education in the digital age.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Still 'O' levels in 1965.
GCSEs came after I started teaching which means after 1975.

Birmingham Post, October 1966 describes an exhibition to be opened showing items produced under exam conditions, by children most of whom were in Midland secondary modern schools.

51A19212-E17C-452C-93A0-E43D846EA83E.jpeg380D4E0F-C676-4A40-B126-DA9AD894C521.jpeg
 
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