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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Eleven Plus Club 10/02/09

Act 1
Scene 1

A University town with two grammar schools.

“Hi, I would like to introduce myself. I am in the 6th Form. I am studying Mathematics, Design and Technology, Information Technology, Physics and Economics – all at A level.

I have been accepted by four Universities – subject, the main, to two A grades and one B. I am actually writing five A level subjects. I have already got 9 A and A* GCSE grades. I play rugby for the school and I am in the orchestra where I play the oboe.”

“Well done, where did you go to school? Did you go to your local grammar?”

“No ways. I go to our local comprehensive. I passed the Eleven Plus and chose the school where all my friends went.”

This last bit of information forces us to readjust our view of the boy. Attending a grammar school may appear to bestow a status on a young person growing up. It is almost as if there is an invisible boundary based on the grounds of school as well as GCSE and A level results.

So far as socialising is concerned, it might seem on the surface, that there are distinct labels that can be applied to people. Can we imagine an eleven year old, with a grammar school place, giving up the idea of grammar school to continue education in the same school as one’s friends?

Scene 2

The town is the same. The comprehensive is still a comprehensive and has not yet changed to an academy, and the grammar school is still there.

The boys have changed to men. They have very different occupations, two went to university. They all have very different addresses.

Do the boys who went to grammar feel they have a monopoly on prestige? Do they view all comprehensive men as upstarts and ill educated – not quite so good?

“We are all members of local golf clubs. We don’t all go to the same club. Only one of us is a member of the best club in town. He didn’t go to university and transferred his junior membership of the club to adult status. He was earning so could afford the fees. The men who went to university are earning more now, but can not join the club because there is such a long waiting list.”

We all remember Groucho Marx talking about clubs. “I don’t care to be a member of a club that accepts people like me as members.”

I sincerely hope that going to a grammar school gives a child growing up the feeling that they are members of a special club. I am naturally delighted when any child from any background earns a place in grammar school. It is also highly edifying to hear stories about grammar school boys and girls who have gone on to make something of themselves. An ex grammar school pupil does, however, become an elite member of a prestigious minority.

Here we have a scenario, to maintain a steady membership of `The Club’ the ex grammar pupil has to be a member of a minority group and be subject to factors involving occupation, education, family background, behaviour, sporting interest, salary, home ownership and diposable income.

It does sound a little like the basis of a musical, doesn’t it?

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