At one it was thought that some girls could be taught home economics. It was also thought that grammar school girls would be too busy doing their homework to be able to learn how to prepare `Sauteed Caramelised Fennel’. It was held that some girls who were not at grammar school could even be taught how to make an Iced Lemon Layer Cake.
Parents used to have to pay for the ingredients – and were more likely to pay for their girls learning how to make cakes and pastry. Of course it was essential that the food needed to be wholesome. Indeed girls who were not at grammar school needed to be helped to be as much like their mothers as possible.
The debates about intelligence testing and the inequalities of selective education did not seem to take much account of gender. Boys who were `unready’ for grammar schools were thought to be technically minded while girls were supposed to be given a vocational education – which really meant a domestic education. Some schools were even fitted with model flats where girls could practice their skills.
In 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act became law. Classrooms, teachers and examination boards had to change the way they looked at education. Naturally,90% of children selecting `home economics’ were girls – but at least boys could consider `taking’ an interest.
Eleven plus boards today do not publish the scores of boys and girls so there is no way we can know if girls find the eleven plus easier than boys. There could be, however, a further little test that could be offered to bright pre-grammar school children. As well as working through eleven plus papers the children could also be asked to prepare `a little something’. Parents all over the country could be encouraged to help their children learn some `useful’ and `practical’ skills. What about if all the children had to prepare one of Delia Smith’s Mascarpone Nutmeg Ice Cream recipes?
Think of the conversation within the family. “Mum, I really need to work on my Ice Cream recipe.” Better still the chat could be: “Dad, I really need to work on my Ice Cream recipe.” Even better still: “I love doing Eleven Plus questions. Please Mum and Dad can we all work together?”
75 ml of mile
Half a nutmeg
1 egg yolk
1 level teaspoon corn flower
75g Caster Sugar
250 g tub of Mascarpone
1 small tub of fromage frais
Instead of children having to work thorough eleven plus papers – all with remarkably similar questions – children could experiment with other fillings and toppings! Ice cream every day? Pure delight for some!