The London School Board in 1870 decided to have infant, junior and secondary schools. In time this thinking led to a desire for some form of selection to allow children to be educated in a senior school which best suited their capabilities. Of course selection led to the eleven plus and it was this examination that tried to find children who would benefit from an academic education.
Junior schools then had to alter the work they did with their children to allow as many as possible enjoy the opportunity of attending a grammar school. The narrowing of the curriculum did not suit everyone – and, in time, there was a general revolt against changes in the junior school and the whole idea of grammar schools. There are now around one hundred and sixty grammar schools left in England.
We know that throughout the eighteenth century the curriculum of the grammar schools revolved around classics. The study of Latin and Greek do not, however, play so large a part in grammar schools today. A learned man called Dean Gaisford, and was a professor at Oxford nearly one hundred and seventy years ago, made the case for grammar schools when he wrote:
The advantages of a classical education are twofold – it enables us to look down with contempt on those who have not shared its advantages, and also fits us for places of emolument not only in this world, but in that which is to come.
We know that the word emolument comes from Latin – and is to do with the fees or wages of work. It is fun to think of all our precious little eleven plus children working as hard as possible to pass their eleven plus so that they can earn lots of money! (I hope they pass some to their parents in time to come!)
We hope too that these potential grammar school children do not look down on lesser mortals who do not pass the examination – or who are not offered the opportunity of sitting the eleven plus.