Tuesday, 19 June 2018

On being 10 and a bit in Edmund Waller School ........ still living with a humiliation

Some memories just do not go away despite the passage of a full half century.

Edmund Waller School, 2007
This one I have carried for 58 years and goes back to Edmund Waller School and Miss Reeves sometime in 1961.

I was the lad who had been promoted at the end of what now we would call Year 5 into the top class, which I greeted at the time as a mixed blessing.

4A was what passed in Edmund Waller as the top class from which the bright and gifted would have their chance at the 11 plus and all the promise that followed from a grammar school place.

Not that I was one of them, having attained a place in 4A, the following September I joined the lads from 3B along with various other schools in the neighbourhood and began five years at Samuel Pepys Secondary Modern  School for Boys.

In the past I have harsh about Samuel Pepys but on reflection given that they were afforded less cash than the grammar schools, I had an excellent education from teachers who were committed to giving us the best.

Me, 1961
None of which is relevant to the memory, which at the time confirmed by own low esteem.  Having not cut the muster with Miss Reeves I was made to feel even lower by a group exercise where working in teams of four we were tasked with a project.

I can’t now remember the topic, only the burning humiliation of being told by the other boy in the group that I shouldn’t make contribution.  I remember his name, and found him some years ago on a social networking site,  full of his achievements on this and the other side of the Atlantic.

I do remember one of the girls intervened on my behalf and I think I did add something, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Looking back almost sixty years I chide myself for continuing to harbour the memory, and reflect that many 11 year olds can be cruel, arrogant and self opinionated but even given those caveats, the humiliation burns deep, and will follow me to the grave.

Not that I wallow in that bitter moment, instead it is a permanent reminder that I went through an educational system predicated on the idea of failure, for with every 11 plus achiever there had to be a legion deemed second rate.

Detail of the school
The apologists for that system, then and now, will advance the fatuous argument that we were not failures just not suited for an academic career which is a falsehood, and a falsehood challenged by the many talented individuals who went on to achieve in a full range of activities despite having failed to make the grade at 11.

So I will continue to let that memory bubble to the surface from time to time.

I could have confronted the individual on his social media site, but I doubt that he would remember such a trivial incident, secure in his glittering achievements.

Nor will I name him.

Location; Edmund Waller School

Pictures; Edmund Waller School, 2007, courtesy of Liz &  Colin Fitzpatrick and me in 1961, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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